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


Aurora school board reverses course, accepts finding that district should have negotiated bonuses with union

Students in a math class at Aurora Central High School in April 2017. (Photo by Yesenia Robles, Chalkbeat)

Following weeks of criticism, the Aurora school board on Tuesday reversed course and accepted an arbitrator’s finding that a pilot bonus system violated the district’s agreement with the teachers union.

The Aurora school district rolled out an experiment last year to offer bonuses to some teachers and other staff in hard-to-fill positions, such as psychologists, nurses and speech language pathologists.

The teachers union argued that the plan should have been negotiated first. An arbitrator agreed and issued a report recommending that the pilot program stop immediately and that the district negotiate any future offerings. The union and school board are set to start negotiations next month about how to change teacher pay, using new money voters approved in November.

When school board members first considered the arbitrator’s report last month, they declined to accept the findings, which were not binding. That raised concerns for union members that the district might implement bonuses again without first negotiating them.

Tuesday’s new resolution, approved on a 5-1 vote, accepted the full arbitrator’s report and its recommendations. Board member Monica Colbert voted against the motion, and board member Kevin Cox was absent.

Back in January 2018, school board members approved a budget amendment that included $1.8 million to create the pilot for incentivizing hard-to-fill positions. On Tuesday, board member Cathy Wildman said she thought through the budget vote, the school board may have allowed the district to create that incentive program, even though the board now accepts the finding that they should have worked with union before trying this experiment.

“It was a board decision at that time to spend that amount on hard-to-fill positions,” Wildman said.

Board president Marques Ivey said he was not initially convinced by the arbitrator’s position, but said that he later read more and felt he could change his vote based on having more information.

Last month, the Aurora school board discussed the report with its attorney in a closed-door executive session. When the board met in public afterward, it chose not to uphold the entire report, saying that the board could not “come to an agreement.” Instead board members voted on a resolution that asked the school district to negotiate any future “long-term” incentive programs.

Union president Bruce Wilcox called the resolution “poorly worded” and slammed the board for not having the discussion in public, calling it a “backroom deal.” Several other teachers also spoke to the board earlier this month, reminding the newest board members’ of their campaign promises to increase transparency.

Board members responded by saying that they did not hold an official vote; rather the board was only deciding how to proceed in public. Colorado law prohibits schools boards from taking positions, or votes, in private.

The board on Tuesday also pushed the district to provide more detailed information about the results of the pilot and survey results that tried to quantify how it affected teachers deciding to work in Aurora.

story slam

The state of teacher pay in Indiana: Hear true stories told by local educators

It’s time to hear directly from educators about the state of teacher pay in Indiana.

Join us for another Teacher Story Slam, co-hosted by the Eiteljorg Museum of American Indians and Western Art, Chalkbeat Indiana, and Teachers Lounge Indy. Teacher salaries are the hot topic in education these days, in Indiana and across the country. Hear from Indianapolis-area teachers who will tell true stories about how they live on a teacher’s salary.

Over the past two years, Chalkbeat has brought readers personal stories from the teachers, students, and leaders of Indianapolis through our occasional series, What’s Your Education Story? Some of our favorites were told live during teacher story slams hosted by Teachers Lounge Indy.

Those stories include one teacher’s brutally honest reflection on the first year of teaching and another teacher’s uphill battle to win the trust of her most skeptical student.

Event details

The event will be held from 6-8 p.m. on Friday, March 15, at Clowes Court at the Eiteljorg, 500 W Washington St. in Indianapolis. It is free and open to the public — please RSVP.

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