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News >  Idaho

Idaho Ed Board unanimously OKs new teacher licensing rules, with changes

The Idaho state Board of Education meeting Thursday on tiered teacher licensing drew a standing-room only crowd (Betsy Russell)
The Idaho state Board of Education meeting Thursday on tiered teacher licensing drew a standing-room only crowd (Betsy Russell)
BOISE – Idaho’s state Board of Education unanimously approved new teacher licensing rules on Thursday that had drawn overwhelming opposition at a series of public hearings around the state, but made several major changes to the rules suggested by opponents. “We were listening and we heard the concerns expressed by educators and the public,” said board President Emma Atchley. The state has been working toward a new tiered teacher licensing system that will be tied to a “career ladder” designed to give big pay boosts to Idaho teachers, if they satisfy specified performance requirements to move up the ladder. But the idea of making local evaluations by principals, student test scores and the like the basis for revoking professional teachers’ licenses sparked opposition from all sides; the board received 594 public comments on the rule, all but 10 opposing it. The newly changed rule adopted Thursday drops the requirements from the license renewal process for experienced teachers, keeping that process as-is. But it keeps it in place for teachers who are in their first three years of teaching. Rod Lewis, the state board member who chaired the subcommittee that worked on the rule, said he doesn’t know if the changes will quell the opposition. “Who knows,” he said. “We believe they are major changes. We’d like to believe that it will make a difference.” “What matters now is how the Legislature deals with it,” Lewis said. “The rule will have to go to the Legislature for their approval. We think it’s a very meaningful step forward for enhancing teacher effectiveness, and serves as a foundation for significant increases in teacher compensation.” Matt Compton, director of public policy for the Idaho Education Association, said the teachers group still has major concerns. “Teachers and parents and school board members all have been saying we should come back to the table … bring more teachers to the table,” he said. “There’s still time. We need to slow this down. That’s certainly something that has been ignored in this rule here today.” He said, “We still have a very serious concern about connecting evaluations to professional certification.” Both the tiered licensing plan and the career ladder are among the 20 recommendations of Gov. Butch Otter’s education improvement task force, which were widely embraced by all parties, from teachers and administrators to lawmakers and parents. But the detailed proposal from the subcommittee met a different reception. “The process that led us to this rule was probably one of the most open, collaborative, inclusive processes that many of us have seen in years in the education arena,” Lewis said. He said of the changes the board made, “We believe that they are responsive to the comments that we received. I’m sure that there are continuing concerns, but there have been … major adjustments here.” Atchley said, “Please recognize that all of us are parents, grandparents, we have been involved in education for a long time. We are doing what we feel is good work for the state.” Linda Clark, superintendent of the state’s largest school district, Meridian, and co-chair of the subcommittee, praised the final version of the rule. “I believe in the process, and when this process is used, the results get better,” she said. Don Coberly, Boise schools superintendent, had been an outspoken opponent of the rule; he said he still had concerns, but welcomed the changes. “I felt like the state board really listened to a lot of the comments that were made,” he said. The original rule proposed three tiers of licensing for teachers that they would move through – up or down – based on achievement. They included a residency certificate, for new teachers; professional, for those with more than three years of experience; and master level, for outstanding experienced teachers. The final version has just two tiers, residency and professional. Board officials said they still hope the career ladder will have standards to reward teachers at all three levels with pay increases. The task force called for raising Idaho’s beginning teacher salary, now just $31,750, to $40,000 for the lowest tier by the end of a multi-year phase-in, with base pay for the middle tier rising to $51,000, and for the top tier, $58,000. How that “career ladder” will function is still being worked out; the state board may take up proposed legislation on that at its next meeting on Nov. 24. Coberly said he still has concerns about teachers in their first three years losing their licenses over a poor evaluation from their principal. “We don’t do that in any other profession,” he said, “where you take away a certificate for unsatisfactory performance. You fire ‘em. But losing a certificate is a whole different issue.”
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