Future of Teaching

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

PHOTO: 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

Future of Teaching

Tentative contract includes big raises for IPS teachers

PHOTO: Dylan Peers McCoy
Teachers would receive significant raises under a tentative new contract with IPS.

A month after voters approved a vast funding increase for Indianapolis Public Schools, Superintendent Lewis Ferebee’s administration and the district teachers union have reached a tentative deal for a new contract that would boost teacher pay by an average of 6.3 percent.

The agreement was ratified by union members Wednesday, according to a statement from teachers union president Ronald Swann. It must be approved by the Indianapolis Public Schools board, which is likely to consider the contract next week, before it is final.

Swann did not provide details of the agreement, but it was outlined in union presentations to teachers on Wednesday ahead of the ratification vote. The deal would cover the 2018-19 school year, and teachers would receive retroactive pay back to July 2018. The prior contract ended in June.

Raising teacher pay was a key part of the sales pitch district leaders used to win support for a referendum to raise $220 million over eight years from taxpayers for operating expenses. The referendum passed with wide support from voters last month, and although the district will not get that money until next year, the administration can now bank on an influx of cash in June 2019. Teachers could receive another raise next year, once the money from the referendum begins flowing.

The proposed deal would bring pay raises for new and experienced teachers. First year teachers in the district would see their salaries jump to $42,587, about $2,600 above the current base salary, according to the presentation to teachers. Returning teachers would move up the pay scale, with most receiving raises of about $2,600.

The deal also brings a reward for teachers who are at the top of the current scale. The top of the scale would rise to $74,920 by adding several stops above the current maximum of $59,400. That means teachers who are currently at the top of the scale would be able to move up and continue getting raises.

Many longtime teachers in the district also earn additional pay for advanced education, but teachers who joined the district more recently are not eligible for that extra money.

Teachers who received evaluations of ineffective or needs improvement in 2017-18 are not eligible for raises.

The new contract is the second time in recent years that teachers have won substantial raises in Indianapolis Public Schools. After four years of painful pay freezes, Ferebee negotiated a contract in 2015 that included a large pay increase. Teacher pay is especially important for the district because it is competing with several surrounding communities to staff schools.

Health care costs would go up this year, a policy shift that was advocated by the Indy Chamber, which urged the district to reduce health insurance spending as part of a plan to shift more money to teacher salaries.

The contract includes a provision that was piloted last year allowing the district to place newly hired teachers at anywhere on the salary schedule. It’s designed to allow the district to pay more for especially hard-to-fill positions.

Teachers at some troubled schools, known as the transformation zone, would also be eligible for extra pay on top of their regular salaries at the discretion of the administration. That money would come from state grants specifically targeted at transformation zone schools.

The idea of allowing superintendents to pay some teachers in their districts more than others is controversial.

Teacher Pay

‘Our teachers have waited long enough’: Educators say Indiana needs to act now on teacher pay

PHOTO: Shaina Cavazos
Students in Decatur Township work on physics problems with their teacher.

Educators and advocates are pushing state leaders to take action this year to raise teacher compensation — not to wait for additional research, as Gov. Eric Holcomb proposed last week.

“Our teachers have waited long enough,” said Teresa Meredith, president of the Indiana State Teachers Association, the state’s largest teachers union. “It doesn’t take a two-year study to discover what we already know: teachers need to be valued, respected, and paid as professionals.”

Holcomb’s proposal last week to study raises in the upcoming budget-writing session and make bigger steps in 2021 didn’t sit well with some, since lawmakers and advocates spent the fall talking up the need to make teacher salaries competitive with other states. But given the state’s tight budget situation, Holcomb suggested studying the impact of raises for at least a year, as well as looking at how much money would be needed and how districts would be expected to get the money to teachers.

Read: Raising teacher pay likely to be at the forefront for Indiana lawmakers and advocates in 2019

The proposal drew quick criticism. Education leaders and advocacy groups took to Twitter to express their hopes that Holcomb and lawmakers would find ways to address teacher salaries this year as well as into the future.

“IN must respond now,” State Superintendent Jennifer McCormick tweeted Friday morning, remarking that too many teachers across the state are leaving the profession because pay is too low. “Kids deserve & depend upon excellent teachers.”

“We can’t wait to act because Hoosier children are counting on all us to come together to ensure our schools can attract and retain the best teachers,” Justin Ohlemiller, executive director of Stand for Children Indiana, said in a blog post titled “The time to act on teacher pay is now.

ISTA’s 2019 legislative agenda, released Monday, will continue pushing for lawmakers and state leaders to find creative solutions to raise teacher pay and make Indiana competitive with other states.

And ISTA says they might have voters on their side. A recent ISTA poll of more than 600 Hoosiers, conducted by Emma White Research, shows that funding for education is a priority across the state, with more than 86 percent of those sampled supporting sending more money to public schools. About 72 percent of people polled believe educators are underpaid.

But it’s unclear if there would be enough money in the budget to spend on across-the-board raises after other funding obligations are met, such as funding needed by the Department of Child Services to deal with effects of the state’s opioid crisis. Senate Democrats have called for $81 million a year to ensure 5 percent raises for teachers and counselors over the next two years. Republicans have strong majorities in both chambers.

Neither ISTA, lawmakers, Holcomb nor other education groups have released specific plans for either how much they’d like to see set aside for teachers or strategies for how a pay increase could feasibly be carried out. However, the effort has brought together some unlikely allies — the union, a vocal advocate for traditional public schools, rarely aligns its education policy with groups like Stand and Teach Plus Indiana that have favored increased school-choice options, such as charter schools.

With limited dollars to go around, the focus will have to also be on how to make existing education dollars go farther, Meredith said. She, along with Republican House Speaker Brian Bosma last month, pointed to the need to curtail spending on administration, which, they argue, could free up money for other expenses such as teacher compensation.

Some have also pointed to the state’s recent budget surplus and reserves as evidence that Indiana could spend more on education if there was political will to do so.

“The surplus has come on the backs of educators and their students,” Meredith said. “Elected leaders must do more. They must do more to declare teacher pay a priority in this session, and they must take action.”

ISTA is also hoping lawmakers will act to:

  • Restore collective bargaining rights so educators can negotiate work hours and class size, as well as salaries and benefits.
  • Remove teacher evaluation results from decisions about salary until the state’s new ILEARN test has been in place for a few years.
  • Invest in school counselors, psychologists, and social workers
  • Strengthen regulations for charter and virtual charter schools, including putting a moratorium on new virtual schools until those safeguards can be enacted.
  • Study districts that have focused on how to best teach students who have experienced trauma.

Indiana’s next legislative session begins in January.

Correction: Dec. 11, 2018: This story has been updated to reflect that Stand for Children Indiana doesn’t take a position in regards to private school vouchers.