Future of Teaching

Indiana schools might struggle to hire teachers, but there’s no shortage of ways to become one

Thomas Barwick | Getty Images

Indiana has been tweaking its teacher licensure policies for years, but recent concerns over teacher shortages have prompted lawmakers to get more involved in pushing to create a larger teacher pool.

Controversial policies paring down licensure requirements have spawned debates about how to balance a teacher’s education and preparation with a school’s need to fill jobs. State legislators and policymakers have argued for years now that relaxed rules will encourage more people to become teachers — but the data shows that so far, relatively few are taking advantage of those opportunities.

In Indiana and across the country, schools have had trouble filling teaching roles, particularly in math, science, and special education — though there’s been debate about exactly where shortages exist and whether they’ve gotten worse over time. Although more licenses have been issued since a dip in 2015, some districts, especially ones that are urban and rural, have still reported challenges.

Read: Too few teachers? This Indianapolis school district is growing its own

This year lawmakers considered a bill that would have let districts have up to 10 percent of their teachers be unlicensed. The testing, paperwork and expense associated with licenses was keeping qualified applicants out of the classroom, they said, a view shared by state Superintendent Jennifer McCormick. Ultimately, after backlash from some educators and teachers unions — and a lot of back and forth — the bill was cut back significantly, and provisions regarding unlicensed teachers were removed. A simpler version of the bill passed.

At the time, the bill’s author said the state already had sufficient avenues for becoming a teacher, and he didn’t want to complicate it further.

Indeed, Indiana has at least nine different kinds of teacher licenses and permits and several pathways would-be teachers can take to get them. Teachers can complete in-state or out-of-state university-based preparatory programs as the basis for their license, or they can earn them through graduate studies or alternative programs, such as Teach for America or Woodrow Wilson Teaching Fellows. For some licenses, no higher education is required.

We break down license options below, as well as with data on how many teachers in the state use them (Note: one teacher can hold multiple licenses).

Traditional teacher license

A full state teaching license is also known as a professional educator’s license, standard license, first grade license, permanent license, professional license, or provisional license, depending on the year it was issued.

This type of license makes up more than 95 percent of all 182,751 licenses issued to teachers currently employed in the state. It can be obtained through traditional and alternative teacher prep programs both inside and outside of Indiana (some short-term licenses convert to these). Depending on when the license was earned, it can be valid for two, five, or 10 years at a time, and some are considered “life” licenses.

For new teachers, these are called “initial practitioner licenses,” and they are valid for two years, after which they can be converted to a five-year “practitioner” license if the teacher has completed 40 hours of professional development. After completing a master’s degree, it can be converted to a 10-year license, known as an “accomplished practitioner license.”

Number of these licenses issued to currently employed teachers: 175,299

Main requirements:

  • Complete an accredited teacher preparation program or convert a short-term license from alternative teacher prep programs or transition to teach programs.
  • Pass specific subject exams.

Transition to teaching permit

This three-year, non-renewable permit is granted to teachers who are completing a transitional program but are hired by a school or district before they finish. Eventually, this permit can transition to a traditional license.

Number of these licenses issued to currently employed teachers: 641

Main requirements:

  • A bachelor’s degree in the subject to be taught and a passing score on an exam for the content area to be taught.

Charter school license

This license can be used by teachers hired in a charter school. Because of a recent change to state law, teachers with this license count toward a school’s 90 percent licensed educator requirement. Previously, only up to 10 percent of a charter school’s teachers could use this license.

Number of these licenses issued to currently employed teachers: 146

Main requirements:

  • A bachelor’s degree in the subject to be taught, from an accredited college or university, with an overall GPA of 3.0 or higher.
  • Or, a bachelor’s degree from an accredited college or university and a passing score on an exam for the content area to be taught.

Career specialist permit

This credential is valid for two years and is intended for a person who wants to switch careers and become a teacher in a specific subject. To renew, the teacher must receive additional education in how children learn, provided by an employer, a college or an entity approved by the Indiana State Board of Education. This can never be converted to a full teaching license.

Number of these licenses issued to currently employed teachers: 18

Main requirements:

  • A bachelor’s degree in the subject to be taught with at least a 3.0 GPA; passing scores content area exams; and 6,000 hours of verified work experience over the five preceding years related to the subject to be taught.
  • Or, a bachelor’s degree in the subject to be taught with at least a 3.0 GPA and 10,000 hours of verified work experience over the seven preceding years related to the subject to be taught.
  • Or, a passing score on a content area exam and 10,000 hours of verified work experience over the seven preceding years related to the subject to be taught.

Workplace specialist license

This credential can be earned by a person with experience in skilled trades or areas relevant to classes in a career center or a high school career and technical education program. These have also been known as “occupational specialist permits.” These licenses do not require a college degree.

Number of these licenses issued to currently employed teachers: 1,120

Short-term or specialized permits

Reciprocal permit: This permit is for a teacher coming in from outside Indiana who has not completed all the requirements for a full Indiana teachers license. This permit is good for one year until they finish the Indiana requirements. It can convert to a professional educator license. Number of these licenses issued to currently employed teachers: 187

Substitute permit: These are granted to substitute teachers. The only requirement is that they have a high school diploma, though districts can set higher standards if they choose. It is valid for three years. Number of these licenses issued to currently employed teachers: 2,703

Visiting teacher permit: Schools can request this permit for a teacher coming in from another country. That teacher must have a degree and a teaching credential from their home country, and an Indiana school must vouch for them to approve their application. This is a three-year permit that is not renewable. These are frequently used for teachers hired to teach other languages. Number of these licenses issued to currently employed teachers: 5

Emergency permit: Schools and districts can request these permits when they are struggling to hire. Teachers using these must have a bachelor’s degree. They are good for one year, and can be renewed if the teacher is pursuing a full license. Number of these licenses issued to currently employed teachers: 2,566

pink slips

One Detroit principal keeps his job as others get the ax. Next year’s challenge? Test scores.

PHOTO: Brenda Scott Academy
Students at Brenda Scott Academy will have the same principal, Eric Redwine, next year.

Educators and staff from a Detroit middle school took the microphone on Tuesday evening to save their principal’s job. Addressing the school board, they listed off Eric Redwine’s virtues, arguing that recent problems at the school can be attributed to its transition from state to district management.

And the board listened. Redwine, principal of Brenda Scott Academy, kept his job in a narrow 4-to-3 vote. He was the only one to survive among more than a dozen other administrators — and three other principals — who either lost their jobs or were reassigned to new ones.

The vote came amid a quiet year for “non-renewals,” shorthand for losing one’s job. In previous years, every administrator in the district was forced to re-apply for their job every year, a tactic designed to give state-appointed emergency managers flexibility in the face of an unstable financial situation. This year, by contrast, only 16 administrators — including four principals — were notified by the superintendent’s office that their contracts would not be renewed, as Superintendent Nikolai Vitti seeks to bring stability to a district still recovering from repeated changes in management.

The principals were singled out for their school management, Vitti has said — not because of how students performed on tests. Test scores will be a major factor in principal contract renewals next spring for the first time under Vitti, part of the superintendent’s effort to meet his promise of boosting test scores.

Seven of the 16 administrators who received “non-renewals” asked the board to reconsider the superintendent’s decision. But in a vote on Tuesday evening, only Redwine survived. He’ll remain as principal of Brenda Scott Academy, according to board member LaMar Lemmons.

The other officials were not named, but Chalkbeat confirmed independently that the district did not renew its contracts with principals Sean Fisher, of Fisher Magnet Upper Academy, and Allan Cosma, of Ludington Magnet Middle School. Vitti previously attempted to remove Cosma, then agreed to offer him a job as assistant principal at Ludington.

At an earlier meeting, Cosma’s employees gathered to vouch for his work. On Tuesday, it was Redwine who received vocal support.

Redwine himself argued publicly that the problems identified at his school by administrators — teacher vacancies and school culture — could be attributed to the school’s transition from a state-run recovery district back to the main district. The recovery district, called the Education Achievement Authority, was created in 2012 to try to turn around 15 of the most struggling schools in the district but the effort was politically unpopular and had limited success. Most of the schools were returned to the main district last summer when the recovery district was dissolved. The only exceptions were schools that had been closed or converted to charter schools.

“I’ve never been told your job is in jeopardy, never been presented a corrective action plan,” Redwine said. “I ask that you reconsider your decision.”

Of the 12 schools that returned to the district last summer, most still have the principals who were in place during the transition last summer. A few got new principals this year after their predecessors left and at least one other former recovery district principal was moved earlier in the year.

Many school leaders reported that the transition was very difficult. It occurred at a time when Vitti was new and still putting his team into place in the central office, making it challenging for principals of the schools to get information they needed about the new district.

When Marcia Horge worked for Redwine, she appreciated his openness to classroom experimentation and his schoolwide Sunday night email, which laid out a game plan for the week ahead.

Then the recovery district folded, Brenda Scott Academy rejoined the main district, and Horge found herself facing a steep pay cut. Rather than accept credit for only two of her 17 years of teaching experience, she left for the River Rouge district. But now, with the Detroit district planning to fully honor teacher experience starting this fall, Horge is contemplating a return to work for Redwine.

“He’s open to our ideas,” she said. “You can go to him. And when there’s a need, he steps in and makes sure we’re communicating.”


meet the fellows

Meet the 38 teachers chosen by SCORE to champion education around Tennessee

The year-long fellowships offered by the State Collaborative on Reforming Education were awarded to 38 Tennessee educators.

Six teachers from Memphis have been awarded fellowships that will allow them to spend the next year supporting better education in Tennessee.

The year-long fellowships, offered by the State Collaborative on Reforming Education, train and encourage teachers and other educators to speak at events, write publicly about their experiences, and invite policymakers to their classrooms. The program is in its fifth year through the nonpartisan advocacy and research organization, also known as SCORE, which was founded by former U.S. Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist from Tennessee.

The fellowships, known as the Tennessee Educator Fellowships, have been awarded to 150 educators since the program’s launch in 2014. This year’s class of 38 educators from around the state have a combined 479 years of experience.

“The fellows’ diverse perspectives and experiences are invaluable as they work both inside and outside the classroom and participate in state conversations on preparing all students for postsecondary and workforce success,” SCORE President and CEO Jamie Woodson said in a news release.

Besides the Shelby County teachers, the group also includes educators who work for the state-run Achievement School District, public Montessori schools, and a school dedicated to serving children with multiple disabilities.

The 2018-19 fellows are:

  • Nathan Bailey, career technical education at Sullivan North High School, Sullivan County Schools
  • Kalisha Bingham-Marshall, seventh-grade math at Bolivar Middle School, Hardeman County Schools
  • Sam Brobeck, eighth-grade math at Memphis Grizzlies Preparatory Charter Middle School. Shelby County Schools
  • Monica Brown, fourth-grade English language arts and social studies at Oakshire Elementary School, Shelby County Schools
  • Nick Brown, school counselor at Westmoreland Elementary School, Sumner County Schools
  • Sherwanda Chism, grades 3-5 English language arts and gifted education at Winridge Elementary School, Shelby County Schools
  • Richard J. Church, grades 7-8 at Liberty Bell Middle School, Johnson City Schools
  • Ada Collins, third grade at J.E. Moss Elementary School, Metropolitan Nashville Public Schools
  • Lynn Cooper,  school counselor at South Pittsburg High School, Marion County Schools
  • Colletta M. Daniels, grades 2-4 special education at Shrine School, Shelby County Schools
  • Brandy Eason, school counselor at Scotts Hill Elementary School, Henderson County Schools
  • Heather Eskridge, school counselor at Walter Hill Elementary School, Rutherford County Schools
  • Klavish Faraj, third-grade math and science at Paragon Mills Elementary School, Metropolitan Nashville Public Schools
  • Mavis Clark Foster, fifth-grade English language arts and science at Green Magnet Academy, Knox County Schools
  • Ranita Glenn, grades 2-5 reading at Hardy Elementary School, Hamilton County Department of Education
  • Telena Haneline, first grade at Eaton Elementary School, Loudon County Schools
  • Tenesha Hardin, first grade at West Creek Elementary School, Clarksville-Montgomery County Schools
  • Thaddeus Higgins, grades 9-12 social studies at Unicoi County High School, Unicoi County Schools
  • Neven Holland, fourth-grade math at Treadwell Elementary School, Shelby County Schools
  • Alicia Hunker, sixth-grade math at Valor Flagship Academy, Metropolitan Nashville Public Schools
  • Alex Juneau, third grade at John Pittard Elementary School, Murfreesboro City Schools
  • Lyndi King, fifth-grade English language arts at Decatur County Middle School, Decatur County Schools
  • Rebecca Ledebuhr, eighth-grade math at STEM Preparatory Academy, Metropolitan Nashville Public Schools
  • Aleisha McCallie, fourth-grade math and science at East Brainerd Elementary School, Hamilton County Department of Education.
  • Brian McLaughlin, grades 10-12 math at Morristown-Hamblen High School West, Hamblen County Schools
  • Caitlin Nowell, seventh-grade English language arts at South Doyle Middle School, Knox County Schools
  • Paula Pendergrass, advanced academics resources at Granbery Elementary School,  Metropolitan Nashville Public Schools
  • Julie Pepperman, eighth-grade science at Heritage Middle School, Blount County Schools
  • Kelly Piatt, school counselor at Crockett County High School, Crockett County Schools
  • Ontoni Reedy, grades 1-3 at Community Montessori, Jackson-Madison County Schools
  • Tiffany Roberts, algebra and geometry at Lincoln County Ninth Grade Academy, Lincoln County Schools
  • Craig Robinson, grades 3-5 science at Georgian Hills Achievement Elementary, Achievement School District
  • Jen Semanco, 10th- and 11th-grade English language arts at Chattanooga Girls Leadership Academy, Hamilton County Department of Education
  • Amanda Smithfield, librarian at Hume-Fogg Academic Magnet School, Metropolitan Nashville Public Schools
  • Cyndi Snapp, fourth-grade math at Carter’s Valley Elementary School, Hawkins County Schools
  • David Sneed, 12th-grade English at Soddy Daisy High School, Hamilton County Department of Education
  • Yolanda Parker Williams, fifth-grade math at Karns Elementary School, Knox County Schools
  • Maury Wood II, grades 4-6 technology at Westhills Elementary School, Marshall County Schools