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Daniels OKs new teachers’ regulations

Subject knowledge is now prime focus

– Gov. Mitch Daniels ushered in a new era of teacher licensing Tuesday when he signed rules and regulations aimed at ensuring teachers are experts in the subjects they teach.

A degree in education by itself for grades 5 through 12 will no longer qualify an applicant for an Indiana teaching license, according to a statement from the governor’s office. Instead, applicants must major in the subject they teach, such as math or science.

Previously, the art of teaching – pedagogy – has played more of a role than knowledge of specific subjects.

The rules take effect July 31, but students graduating from college before 2013 will be grandfathered.

Daniels called the new regulations “bold” and said they would “transform dramatically what is expected from new teachers in Indiana.”

Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Bennett pushed the rules to raise standards for those becoming teachers in Indiana.

He also noted Tuesday that the new rules provide more flexibility for those interested in teaching to transfer their content knowledge to the classroom through alternative certification paths.

“These new regulations are a win for Indiana’s students and educators, and they are a great example of the good things that can happen when adults come together to improve instructional quality for students and put the needs of Indiana children first,” Bennett said.

Teresa Lubbers, Indiana’s higher education commissioner, said there are 43 colleges of education in the state, and some will likely have to alter their curriculum to satisfy the new requirements. Others such as Ball State University already focus on content knowledge.

Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne does this as well, said Jim Beard, director of licensing and advising at the university. So the changes aren’t significant in secondary education except adding an education minor. The requirements for such a minor are vague at this point, he said.

Under the new rules, if the major is offered by a teacher training institution, the major must meet or exceed the content requirements of any other major offered by the institution for higher learning for that content area.

For instance, a school of education that offers an approved program in math leading to licensure at the high school level may choose to call it a math education major, but the coursework in that major must meet or exceed the coursework for a math major offered in the school of arts and sciences.

Beard also said that for the first time in elementary education, schools must offer content minors in various subjects.

Korrine Gust, associate professor of education and director of teacher education for Manchester College, said the entire process has been confusing and will be difficult to implement.

“It will change everybody’s curriculum,” she said. “I don’t know of an institution that will be able to keep programming exactly the same.”

Gust also noted that teachers already have to pass state exams on content. Now secondary education students will have to major in a specific content area – such as English – often with a minor in education, and pass the exam.

“I think that it was a well-intentioned idea but not well researched,” Gust said. “By not asking us from the beginning about how to improve teachers, it came across as a mandate, and they don’t really understand how it plays out in all these institutions.”