The proverbial question of “which came first, the chicken or the egg?” has been debated by philosophers and deep thinkers for thousands of years. But the unanswerable question has now finally been resolved by the Idaho State Board of Education. Both chicken and egg came at exactly the same time in this year’s “reform” of Idaho education by creating a proposed rule on how teachers get and keep a certificate to teach in Idaho.
Under the current, long-standing and logical rule, once a teacher does everything required to prove s/he is capable of being an effective teacher s/he earns a certificate to teach in Idaho. This is the same as a law license, medical license or engineering license. The proposed rules for teachers recently approved by the State Board of Education, however, have some fine print you don’t normally see with other professions. Based on a number of unpredictable variables, many of which are completely out of the teacher’s control, a teacher could have their certificate to teach demoted to a Contingent certificate.
If a teacher gets “demoted” s/he would stay demoted until successfully completing an “improvement plan” in their school district. Not that bad you say? But wait. What the rules do not address is what happens when an employee is unable to “improve” if they have lost their teaching job.
If a teacher has a Contingent Certificate, s/he cannot regain a full Professional Certificate without completing an improvement plan. But the plan must be done while teaching. Without a job, a teacher cannot complete the improvement plan. Without completing the plan, a teacher can’t regain a full certificate. Without a full certificate, the teacher is unlikely to get a job. Thus the vicious cycle is launched.
At Superintendent Tom Luna’s Technical Advisory subcommittee meetings and at the State Board’s Tiered Licensure subcommittee meetings which developed these rules, issues like this were raised several times, but in most instances, the response was “we’ll figure that out later.” Apparently, the urgency in getting the rules out was more important that getting the rules right. When reminded that the legislature provided the State Board with two-year’s worth of funding to tackle these issues, the point was ignored and the steamroller just moved forward. Now we have these rules before us for public comment. What will you say?
We need a more thoughtful and thorough approach in Idaho, rather than repeating the hasty decisions of the past. For the sake of our students, our teachers, and our schools, I am asking you to join me in urging the State Board of Education to slow down and create a system that will encourage the highest quality teachers to come to Idaho and stay in Idaho to teach our children.
President, Idaho Education Association