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Teacher changes need to be fully communicated

Published: Thursday, April 11, 2013 9:30 a.m. CDT

(MCT) — Beginning July 1, the way Illinois elementary and secondary teachers are licensed will change. There’s a lot to like about the new requirements. But, as seems to be the rule rather than the exception in Illinois, not all of the details have been worked out.

Currently, teachers have a certificate that allows them to teach in the state. On July 1, those certificates will automatically be transferred to licenses. That should create few problems, since current teachers don’t have to do anything to make the change happen.

But renewals and professional development requirement details haven’t been worked out yet, and that’s causing some concern and confusion. Now, teachers have to renew their certificates every five years, but it hasn’t been determined how often teachers will have to renew the new licenses.

The new professional development rules require the organization presenting a workshop or course to enter the credit. In the past, the teachers have performed that task. Now teachers will be responsible for making sure the information supplied is correct.

That could put a lot of work onto the workshop organizers, which often are school districts. This seems like the sort of bureaucratic decision that philosophically makes sense, but in reality creates more problems than it solves.

Some of the changes are more sensible. After July 1, all correspondence between the licensing department and teachers will be by email. Also, all new teachers are required to be trained to teach reading and will have to learn strategies for working with special education students and understanding the needs of English language learners.

The problem is the state has set the deadline before figuring out all of the details. That’s not right. These changes are less than three months away. It’s past time for the details to be determined and communicated to those who will be affected.

This editorial appeared in The Pantagraph, Bloomington, Ill.

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