Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Special Session and Details on Teacher Licensure Bill

This afternoon, Governor Ralph Northam issued a proclamation calling for the members of the Virginia House of  Delegates and the Virginia Senate to return for a Special Session of the General Assembly on April 11. The purpose of the Special Session is to take up and adopt a 2018-2020 budget. Hopefully the budget conferees are, once again, working and we will have a budget that INVESTS in Virginia and gives educators a raise!! Keep checking here for updates!

I have been getting many questions on the Teacher Licensure bill and wanted to share some details. The bill passed and is on the Governor's desk. Any legislation he signs (and he will sign this one) becomes law effective July 1 of the year of passage. BUT... this bill requires that the Board of Education establish regulations on the license, so I would guess that the 10 year license will become effective in 2019, but we will keep you updated as we work with the BOE.

We do expect the fee on the 10 year license to go to $50 to reflect the doubling of the length of the license. The Department of Education indicated that they would need to do that to keep the bill fiscally neutral, but, again, the BOE will establish all of the regulations including fees.

The bill requires the BOE to establish the number of Professional Development points that will be required. For a 5 year license you are required to have 180 PD points. The bill that passed says that the Board will determine the number of points, not to exceed 360. Again, we will work closely with the BOE as they create the regulations on the new licenses.

Keep in mind that all the "add on" requirements that the General Assembly has thrown onto license renewal will only have to completed every 10 years. That is important.

Some other changes coming to teacher licensure:

Provisional licenses are still for 3 years, but they can be extended by the BOE for up to two years at the request of the local superintendent so long as the provisional license holder is making progress towards meeting full license requirements and is an effective teacher. Many of our provisionally licensed teachers are new to teaching and, often, teaching in hard to staff schools. That makes completing all of the license requirements difficult for some. When they couldn't complete the requirements in three years, they could no longer teach. The possibility of extension will help those teachers and many of those schools.

Teachers with valid out of state licenses will have full reciprocity in Virginia. They will need to establish a file with the Department of Education that contains a full application, official transcripts and license information, but will not have to meet any of the other service requirements to be hired in Virginia. They will have to renew their license as required in Virginia when they license expires. This will be especially helpful to our military-educator families as they move into Virginia. The educator will be able to obtain their VA credentials much more quickly and be hired much more quickly.

Those are the biggest changes. When this bill was originally filed it allowed for the waiver of any license for anyone with "content knowledge" in any area. The VEA worked very hard to gain bipartisan support to strike that section of the bill. Our message that teachers should be licensed and that they should have content knowledge and a solid foundation in pedagogy, the science of teaching, was heard. The original bill also disadvantaged teacher candidates going through a traditional teacher prep program by eliminating the test requirements for provisionally licensed teachers. The VEA fought that as well, and that language is not in the bill. The VEA shed a bright light on the cultural biases in the PRAXIS test and that we should, perhaps, look at alternative ways to measure a teacher's preparedness to enter the classroom. We were firm, however, that we shouldn't offer a short cut for some until we look at the whole picture. Sadly, language to study just that issue was deleted from the bill to help eliminate fiscal impact, but we have highlighted this issue for the Governor and the Secretary of Education, so we are hopeful there will be good work in this lane during off-session.

If you hold a teaching license in Virginia, make sure you connect with the VEA to stay informed. We will be working with the Board of Education and the Department as they develop the regulations and we will be sending out communications as we learn more. As the professional license holder, make sure you know what your plan is and what requirements you need to meet.