Kansas education officials are considering changes to how teachers are licensed in effort to meet a growing demand for technical education courses at high schools.
The Kansas State Board of Education discussed the changes during a meeting Thursday. The board is responding to a growing demand for courses as result of new programs and funding for technical and career education enacted since 2011.
A representative of the Kansas National Education Association raised concerns during the meeting that the licensing changes could lead to teachers who lack the necessary instructional skills to adequately educate students.
Karen Godfrey, president of the KNEA, said while she understood the desire to revisit regulations for licensing teachers, it was important that those new faculty members have the proper instruction on teaching methods that other, traditional classroom teachers receive in college. Background in a specific technical or career content area may not be enough, she said.
“We teach kids,” Godfrey said. “In order to teach students, it takes some skills.”
Board members said they have wanted to review the licensing process for years and the increased scarcity of technical and career education teachers is prompting a closer look. They said finding qualified instructors to fill the need in high schools was real, especially in rural areas.
Kansas enacted new laws in 2011 designed to encourage students to take courses that will earn them certification in technical fields, as well as college credit that can be used to give them a head start in future training. The goal is to provide a readily available workforce to meet growing demands in manufacturing and other industries for trained workers.
High schools can receive $1,000 bonuses from the state for each student who completes the program and earns industry certification.
The Kansas Department of Education is proposing that board members change the regulations to allow for the issuance of a three-year, renewable part-time teaching permit for people with industry-recognized certification or other experience in specialized industries.
One option, Godfrey said, would be placing a new instructor with a licensed teacher.
Jana Shaver, chairwoman of the state board, said the department’s proposed changes were moving Kansas in the right direction by balancing the need for more flexibility while maintaining quality classroom instruction.
“We have felt for some time that we needed to look at those regulations,” Shaver said. “To come in and teach welding, if that person is licensed in that field, that should be adequate.”
Board member Ken Willard said high school principals should be given flexibility to determine who is qualified to teach specialized courses, such as auto mechanics, welding or other technical skills, then provide supervision as needed.
“We need to be able to take maximum advantage of skills in a community,” Willard said. “I think this really would help.”
Willard said his own grandfather never finished high school but became a master welder who later trained others in the field, including Willard’s sons.