DECATUR — Teacher certificates are complicated, and they’re going to get more complicated July 1.
On that date, teachers will instead have licenses, and all current certificates will automatically roll over into licenses. Teachers don’t have to do anything for that to happen. It will be renewals and professional development requirements that will be confusing.
“Teacher licensure is becoming a huge issue,” said Macon-Piatt Regional Superintendent Matthew Snyder at the regional board’s March 21 meeting.
Part of the reason is that not all the details have been worked out yet, such as how many hours of continuing education will be required and how often teachers will have to renew their licenses. Currently, teachers must renew every five years.
In the past, teachers who took continuing education could enter the credits in their own records. Now, the organization giving the workshop or course has to enter the credit, while the teacher’s responsibility is to double-check to make sure it’s there.
In a district the size of Decatur, for example, that could mean hundreds of hours of credit will have to be entered by district personnel when the district offers continuing education for its teachers.
“That could be a full-time job for us,” Decatur Superintendent Gloria Davis said.
Until now, new teachers received an Initial certificate and had to have five years of experience to earn a Standard certificate. That will no longer be the case. All teachers will hold licenses.
“There will no longer be separate Initial and Standard certificates,” said Amanda Reavy Simhauser, spokeswoman for the Illinois State Board of Education. “All current certificate holders will be issued a license as of July 1 without having to do anything.
“Certificate holders are encouraged to go into the Educator Certification System to make sure their contact information is up-to-date prior to July 1. All correspondence with licensure holders after July 1 will be through email. Licenses will not be printed and mailed. Individuals may go online to check their credentials.”
In addition to the switch to licenses, the Illinois State Board of Education has changed the teacher preparation requirements, said Nan Galen, director of the Millikin University School of Education. Universities were informed two years ago.
New requirements are that all teachers, no matter their area of expertise, must be trained to teach reading, learn strategies for working with special-education students and understand the needs of English language learners.
Teaching assistants will also face more stringent requirements, said Paula Busboom, president of the Decatur Area Federation of Teaching Assistants. A few years ago, the state raised the education requirement for teaching assistants to a two-year degree or 30 hours and work experience or the ability to pass the paraprofessional exam.
“They are phasing out work experience and college hours as a qualifier,” Busboom said. “(Teaching assistants) have to have all 60 or more college hours or take the paraprofessional exam. Subs will now have to meet same requirement.”
Galen said students at Millikin are encouraged to pursue endorsements of special education or English as a second language expertise to make them stand out in a competitive job market.
“Starting in the fall, our elementary (teaching students) will choose (English as a second language) or special-ed endorsements,” she said. “It won’t just be a class here or there. They’ll be way more marketable and better teachers. Some districts have one elementary opening and 700 applicants, and we’re telling them, how do you distinguish yourself?”