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Teachers in Indiana demand that the state board review the requirements for literacy licensing

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Indianapolis, Indiana – Teachers from all over Indiana spoke out against a new literacy license requirement that the General Assembly approved earlier this year for hours on end on Wednesday before the State Board of Education.

All Pre-K through sixth-grade special education instructors must complete 80 hours of professional development on science of reading concepts and pass a written exam as part of the training requirement. Without doing this, teachers won’t be allowed to renew their license.

Teachers flocked to the almost four-hour meeting, even though the literacy endorsement was not on the agenda for the state board. The majority of that was devoted to teachers’ and union representatives’ statements in the public sphere, arguing that the new training requirement is unjust and burdensome. To make matters more complicated, there are currently just a few options available to teachers that require them to pay for themselves because many of the free training courses are already filled.

“No other profession is going to be okay with being told — not only do you have to do this to keep your license — but you have to do it outside your contracted hours,” said Cory Freihaut, a special education teacher from the Vigo County School Corporation who spoke at Wednesday’s meeting.

In addition to being a teacher, Freihaut said he is a single father who works two other jobs. He echoed the many other instructors who stressed how difficult and inconvenient it is for many people to fit in training during the summer.

“I understand we’re getting a stipend, but … that’s like $15 an hour. I make more than that at the pizza shop I do on the weekends,” Freihaut said. “I ask that you guys look at shortening that (professional development), because honestly, unless you can provide it in our contracted hours, we shouldn’t be doing it.”

Secretary of Education Katie Jenner brought up the state of Indiana’s reading scores, which have been dropping for more than ten years, during the meeting. Data from the Indiana Department of Education (IDOE) show that in 2023, one in five third graders in Indiana did not have a foundational reading proficiency.

Though she acknowledged the concerns, she insisted that the state board and education officials are looking for answers and ways to provide teachers greater “flexibility” in fulfilling their training obligations.

Jenner also mentioned that 12,000 educators registered for the three-week Keys to Literacy course. The state is bringing on more cohorts, the IDOE declared on Wednesday.

The number of cohorts increased from 12 to 64 with the addition of additional sessions for the spring and summer. Each cohort consisted of about 200 educators. Additionally, more cohorts are available for the Fall 2024 and Spring 2025 semesters “in response to the early demand,” the IDOE said.
In an attempt to improve the weak reading scores among Hoosier kids, state legislators adopted the literacy training requirement during the 2024 legislative session.

As mandated by law, educators who wish to renew their licenses by 2027 must obtain a “Early Literacy Endorsement.” Through 2025, they can accomplish this through the free professional development program offered by a third party, Keys to Literacy. Teachers who complete the 80-hour Keys to Literacy training program are eligible for a $1,200 stipend, and the state will pay for the PRAXIS exam.

However, representatives of the Indiana State Teachers Association (ISTA) stated that education officials ought to give educators additional options for fulfilling the literacy requirement in addition to taking into consideration the experience of teachers, such as years of experience in the classroom and completion of additional coursework, such as master’s degrees.

ISTA Specifically, the PRAXIS exam places a “unnecessary burden” on instructors, according to Treasurer Diana Reed. She also questioned the exam’s usefulness and importance, requesting that it be dropped as a prerequisite.

“The literacy endorsement requirements … are a great, great source of concern and a high-level issue among my fellow educators. The requirements … have increased stress and compounded existing challenges of teacher burnout and retention,” Reed told the board. “Colleagues have expressed they would rather let their licenses lapse at the next renewal date then be subjected to more hoops and mandates to prove their worth. We are already experiencing a shortage of qualified educators, and these new requirements do not signal to our teachers that their education, degrees obtained, and endorsements earned are valued.”

Nevertheless, the board was urged to maintain the literacy requirements by representatives of the nonprofit advocacy organizations Stand for Children and the Institute for Quality Education. They reiterated that in order to increase student literacy, reading instruction science is required.

“IQE has been supportive of the various literacy focused legislation the past few legislative sessions. And while we recognize that some of these steps may present a challenge to schools and educators, we have confidence in their ability to meet these challenges head on, as they continuously do, so that all aspects of our children’s education are aligned behind the science of reading,” said Molly Collins of the Institute for Quality Education. “Oftentimes, the step that is best and right for students may not be the easiest. But we are at a critical crossroad in our state’s future and for the future of our children, and we cannot wait. Our students cannot wait.”

 

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