EDITORIAL: New teachers should learn how to teach

2012-12-10T00:00:00Z EDITORIAL: New teachers should learn how to teach nwitimes.com
December 10, 2012 12:00 am  • 

Under Indiana's new teacher licensing rules, the path for adjunct instructors in grades 6 to 12 has been greased too liberally.

The Indiana State Board of Education's revision of teacher licensing rules should be seen as a poke in incoming Superintendent of Public Instruction Glenda Ritz's eye, not as sound public policy. Ritz was unhappy that the board members, appointed by the governor, didn't wait for her to begin her term in office before voting on this change.

Colleges have long used adjunct faculty as instructors. That's an acceptable practice. But secondary school differs from college. Those students are still learning the basics.

The new "adjunct teacher permit," created Wednesday by the State Board of Education, allows anyone with a bachelor's degree and a 3.6 grade-point average to pass a subject test and immediately qualify to teach that subject in a Hoosier middle school or high school classroom.

"I think we're heading for unqualified teachers in our classroom in Indiana," Ritz told us during the campaign when we discussed the proposed rules with her.

While we're not quick to agree with her that the new REPA II rules "would dismantle our profession," we are concerned.

Teachers need two basic skills to be able to teach students effectively. The first is mastery of the subject they're teaching. The second is the ability to transmit that knowledge to students in a way that leads to their own mastery of the subject. Sure, adjunct instructors know their subject, but can they teach?

The new licensing rules require teachers with adjunct permits to be rated "effective" or "highly effective" in three of their first five years of teaching for their permit to be renewed. That's good, but not good enough.

Subject mastery is not enough to be a good teacher. The ability to teach and to keep students in line must be considered as well.

Yes, there should be a shortcut for prospective teachers who have obviously mastered the subject they will teach, based on their education or life experiences, as well as passing the test, but prepare them for classroom management and teaching skills before turning them loose in the classroom. 

Adjunct instructors are OK at the college level, but they require additional training to properly instruct students in grades 6 to 12.

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