Indiana bill makes it easier for working professionals to transition to becoming teachers

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This article was published on The Center Square Indiana by Margaret Menge on April 15, 2021.

(The Center Square) – A bill that passed through both chambers of the Indiana legislature will make it easier for people in the state who already have college degrees and experience in the working world to become teachers.

Senate Bill 205, authored by Sen. Linda Rogers, R-Granger, allows people with bachelor’s degrees who are at least 26 years old to take an online teacher training program and complete that training in less time and at less expense than they would incur if they had to return to school to get an education degree.

“Most teachers will continue to be university trained,” Rogers said in introducing the bill in February, “but if we want to address the teacher shortage, we have to think outside the box and add additional options.”

Rogers told members of the Senate Committee on Education and Career Development that she’d worked on the bill with a non-profit organization called the American Board.

American Board was founded in 2001 by the U.S. Department of Education to address the anticipated nationwide shortage of teachers. The organization now operates in 15 states: Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Idaho, Mississippi, Missouri, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Utah, Wisconsin and West Virginia.

A representative of American Board testified before the committee, saying they have a 97% teacher retention rate – meaning that 97% of the teachers they train remain on the job at the three-year mark, compared to about 80% of all new teachers.

The cost of American Board’s online teacher training program, which is self-paced and can be completed in three months, is $1,900.

On the floor of the Indiana House of Representatives this week, some Democrats expressed concern about the low cost and also the length of the program, which is far shorter than the two years that it would normally take someone with a bachelor’s degree to earn a master’s in education and shorter than the three-semester Transition to Teaching program currently available in Indiana to professionals wanting to become teachers.

But Rep. Ed Clere, R-New Albany, told his fellow representatives that cost should not be equated with quality, saying: “Hopefully, having more options and more competition will drive down costs for everyone who wants to pursue a career in teaching.”

He noted the average age of people entering online teaching programs is 40, saying he doesn’t think they necessarily need a longer program.

“These are folks who usually have quite a bit of life experience,” he said. “Maybe they’ve had another career, or even a couple of careers, military experience, a lot they can bring to the classroom.”

The bill was amended in the House to add a couple of additional requirements. A person applying for a teaching license from the state after having completed an online program as described in the bill has to take a subject-area test called Praxis, and also must complete a one-year “clinical experience” program in their first year in the classroom. That clinical experience must include instructional design and planning, effective instructional delivery, classroom management, effective use of assessment data and also information on IEPs (individualized education programs) and 504 plans, used for students with disabilities.

 The bill was also amended to require schools that hire one or more teachers who have completed an online course like American Board’s submit a report to the state Department of Education each year. Also, the Department of Education must submit a report to the Indiana General Assembly by July 1, 2024 showing how many teachers obtained an initial license through such an online program.