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WV state school board proposes lowering some teacher requirements

The West Virginia Board of Education has proposed changing some requirements to become a public school teacher by exempting education bachelor’s degree holders who meet minimum grade point averages from having to pass the basic knowledge test, and no longer requiring non-education master’s degree holders with “five years of directly related work experience” to pass a content knowledge test to teach in the subject they hold a master’s in.

The state school board is also proposing to increase the valid period for teacher licensure tests and passing scores on those tests to 10 years from the date the candidate passed, up from just a year “after completion of an approved program for licensure where the applicant was continuously enrolled.” The changes also say that if the state board “has not altered either the required test or the passing score, the test and score shall remain valid beyond the ten-year period.”

Michele Blatt, assistant state superintendent over the state Department of Education’s Division of Support and Accountability, said the proposed changes also include the education department providing free online courses, in lieu of college courses, for teachers to renew their certificates. She said they couldn’t use this option to reach higher salary classifications.

Blatt said the proposals also include allowing for teachers who aren’t certified in the field in which they’re teaching to continue doing that for two subsequent years, instead of just one. She said the six semester hours currently required for the one-year renewal would be converted into a requirement of three semester hours for the first year of renewal and three more semester hours for the second year.

You can read these and the many other proposed changes to state board Policy 5202 online at wvde.state.wv.us/policies. The official public comment period ends 4 p.m. Oct. 10.

The links to read and comment on Policy 5202 are at the bottom of the large blue box at the top of the web page. The box also contains one other set of proposed policy changes whose official comment period also ends 4 p.m. Oct. 10, seven others whose official comment period ends much sooner, at 4 p.m. Monday, and three more whose official comment period has already ended, though the state board has yet to give a final vote on those three and you can still send board members your opinions on them by emailing vharris@k12.wv.us.

The state board had put proposed changes to Policy 5202 out for public comment in July, but instead of approving those, it put proposed changes to that same policy out for public comment again last week due to the “substantial changes” that Blatt said were made to the proposals following the previous comment period.

State Schools Superintendent Steve Paine said last week that the proposed changes add more flexibility to help fill job positions without compromising quality.

“We have a shortage of teachers in pretty much all content areas now,” Blatt said, “even in elementary education we’re having trouble finding [teachers].”

To be exempted from the basic knowledge test, which tests teachers’ skills in math and English language arts, a bachelor’s degree holder must have at least a 3.5 cumulative GPA that includes at least six semester hours of college-level English and six semester hours of college-level math with at least a 3.0 GPA in each of those courses.

“That would decrease that first requirement, that first PRAXIS test for a lot of our teachers, our future teachers,” Blatt said. As for exempting a master’s degree holder who wants to teach, for example, biology, from having to pass the PRAXIS content exam in biology if their master’s was in that subject, Blatt said they would still have to take a pedagogy exam for teaching.

If such a master’s degree holder doesn’t have an education degree, they would still have to go through the alternative certification program that was previously established through separate policy and state law. Blatt said this alternative certification process includes coursework on things like classroom management and must be completed in three years, “but they can teach while they’re getting that.”

Reach Ryan Quinn at ryan.quinn@wvgazettemail.com, facebook.com/ryanedwinquinn, 304-348-1254 or follow @RyanEQuinn on Twitter.

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