TOPEKA — Kansas Commissioner of Education Dr. Randy Watson on Tuesday recommended that the Kansas State Board of Education take a closer look at the current teacher licensing process to make the teaching field more accessible to professionals in order to address teacher vacancies.
The commissioner in 2016 formed a Blue Ribbon Task Force to study Kansas’ teacher vacancies and shortage.
The Task Force concluded that 99 percent of positions are filled, but there are persistent vacancy clusters across the state, including southwest Kansas and urban Kansas City, Kansas, and Wichita school districts. It also concluded that there is currently a decline in the number of students majoring in education.
After hearing a report from the task force, the State Board of Education approved the creation of a Teacher Vacancy and Supply Committee to serve as a standing subcommittee of the Professional Standards Board. The committee is charged with leading the implementation of approved task force recommendations, studying the effectiveness of those recommendations and monitoring the annual collection of teacher data.
During Tuesday’s State Board of Education meeting, Watson recommended that the Professional Standards Board and the Teacher Vacancy and Supply Committee work together to establish a process that would provide a more flexible system for licensing professionals to fill teaching vacancies. For example, teacher applicants who have been denied direct licensure may be able to present evidence to the Professional Standards Board to support their qualifications for licensure.
The Standards Board, comprised of teachers, administrators and representatives from institutes of higher learning, could then make a recommendation about licensing to the State Board of Education. These licenses would be issued on a limited basis, Watson said. Mentoring and ongoing education would be key components of Watson’s recommendation.
“This is not about lowering the standards,” Watson said. “This is about looking at the needs of the districts and the students they serve to attract the best professional for the classroom. We can’t wait for someone else to grow the teaching profession. We have schools that can’t offer classes simply because they have no qualified applicants. This is unacceptable.”
Watson recommended that the State Board of Education work with the Professional Standards Board and the Teacher Vacancy and Supply Committee to design what the process would look like.
“Who better than a professional board of their peers to make these decisions,” Watson said.
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