SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — As education authorities contemplate a teacher shortage, Utah’s state school board has passed a new rule allowing schools to hire people who don’t have a teaching license or any experience.
The new policy would allow administrators to hire applicants who pass a background check, have a bachelor’s degree and pass tests on both ethics and subject areas, The Salt Lake Tribune reported (http://bit.ly/1YsjXOv ).
Utah has long had a program that let people with bachelor’s degrees get teaching jobs before they got a license, but the new policy change lets them get a license right away and drops a requirement that those people take college teacher-training courses, said Mark Peterson with the State Office of Education.
Those who are hired would be mentored and supervised by a master teacher for three years. The board is now accepting public comment on the policy. It’s set to go into effect Aug. 7 if no one asks for a hearing.
Democratic Rep. Carol Spackman Moss of Salt Lake City says putting people who aren’t trained teachers into classrooms is short-sighted. To be effective, teachers need experience with things like classroom management and breaking complicated ideas into more manageable pieces, she said.
“It’s a science and an art,” she said.
School Board chair Dave Crandall says people from other industries can bring an important perspective to the classroom, and the college courses required in the old alternative teaching licensure program didn’t seem to be very effective.
The change could also help combat a teacher shortage that’s left half of Utah schools with open teaching positions on the first day of school, according to district surveys. That could be because Utah colleges are turning out fewer teachers even as the number of students grows.
The state’s student body is now at more than 640,000 students, up 10 percent over the last five years. Enrollment in collegiate teacher-training programs has dropped by about a third over the last decade.
Of those students who do become public school teachers, 2 in 5 leave the profession within five years. Utah lost teachers at a rate twice the national average in 2011-2012.
Utah lawmakers have asked the University of Utah Education and Policy Center to find out why teachers are dropping out. Two factors that researchers are looking at are the state’s lower-than-average teacher salaries and Utah’s relatively large, young families.
But those factors have long been in place, and don’t fully explain the recent drops in the teaching ranks, center director Andrea Rorrer said. Researchers will look at “understanding what’s changed and what’s different,” she said.
Her team is aiming to finish the study by the end of 2016.