Rethinking How Colorado Licenses Teachers

EdNews Colorado recently reported that Colorado may be considering revising its process for licensing teachers. If you’re familiar with the current process, then you know that the renewal of licenses is currently tied to professional development including college courses. What’s strange about the current system, though, is that it tends to produce teachers with high levels of education without regard for whether that really makes sense. Does my child’s kindergarten teacher really need a PhD? Does having a PhD really make her a better teacher? Is it the best use of the increasingly limited number of spots in our system of higher education? What’s more, in our experience many professional development courses, outside of college courses, tend to be poorly taught and the content is often misguided.

The Colorado Department of Education (CDE), The New Teacher Project, and the Rose Community Foundation recently released a report entitled “Making Licensure Matter.” Among the report’s recommendations is the recommendation that license renewal be tied to teacher evaluations.

Of course, the reaction to such a recommendation was mixed. State Board of Education member Debora Scheffel had this to say:

I just think this creates more cost with the testing. We have to have an army of people to follow this; this really complicates the process.

Jill Hawley, CDE’s Associate Commissioner of Achievement and Strategy, countered:

My sense is we are eliminating a lot of the levels of bureaucracy that we have now.

It’s clear that the current system needs revision. We’re happy to see that State Senator Michael Johnston may put some serious thought into revising the current system of licensure. We hope though that Senator Johnston gives careful consideration to whether this does indeed complicate the system further and more importantly, whether it produces outcomes for our teachers that are the best use of our resources.

Perhaps, one of the best approaches might be to lower initial licensing standards but make relicensure, tied to evaluations and outcomes, the higher bar that new teachers must get through to prove themselves. In our experience there tends to be something that is hard to quantify about good teachers–either they have it or they don’t. Lowering the initial bar would increase the pool of teachers and allow us to select the best.

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