Policy Alert - Teach Illinois: Strong Teachers, Strong Classrooms

Earlier this month the Illinois State Board of Education released Teach Illinois: Strong Teachers, Strong Classrooms. The implementation of this publication could have sweeping impact on teacher preparation and licensure in Illinois. For example, Recommendation II, Strategy IV states that ISBE will, “Review current statutes and rules to support opportunities for expanded pathways approved as a statewide preparation route.” Music educators have voiced strong regarding the potential for new pathways to licensure.

Teach Illinois contains twenty-nine strategy recommendations within seven broader policy recommendations. They are summarized below, but I strongly encourage you to read the entire report before commenting to ISBE at teachillinois@isbe.net. The public comment period for this report ends on Tuesday, October 2.

The culmination of a yearlong study of focus groups with over 400 participants, this report is “a comprehensive suite of solutions for the statewide teacher workforce crisis, backed by state and national research and data.” (https://goo.gl/wFVSYX) Presented to the Illinois State Board of Education on September 11, 2018, we are now in a public comment period until October 2. The State Board of Education will vote on policy and rule changes suggested by the ISBE staff and this report’s findings on October 17, 2018.

Recommendation I: Teacher Pipeline

ISBE will work with partners across Illinois to coordinate a statewide campaign to elevate the teaching profession and inspire people, especially those of color, to join the profession.

Strategies

ISBE will work with partners to:

1. Elevate the teaching profession by acknowledging the impact teachers have and celebrating successes of classroom practitioners.

2. Coordinate stakeholders by creating a coalition or council focused on promoting the profession.

3. Elevate hard to staff teaching positions by strategically advertising for them.

4. Promote the benefits of teaching to groups under-represented in the profession (community outreach strategies), such as young men and young people from minority cultural backgrounds, by presenting teacher role models from these backgrounds, correcting misconceptions responsible for negative views of teaching and disseminating information about teaching.

5. Support districts by providing guidance on how they can use social media to celebrate teachers in the region and inspire others to join the profession.

6. Involve diverse communities by encouraging grassroots, community-led organizations to participate in—and shape—the campaign.

ILMEA Explanation

This recommendation seeks to build story-telling and community engagement to change the current perception of becoming a professional teacher. ISBE wishes to raise the number of teacher candidates by advertising teaching as a profession and working within communities under-represented in the current teacher pool.

Recommendation II: Teacher Pipeline

ISBE will work with partners across Illinois to incentivize and create opportunities for P12 and postsecondary institutions to work together to create streamlined pathways into the teaching profession.

Strategies

ISBE will work with partners to:

1. Incentivize pathways with small grants to fund P12 and higher education to work together to create clear, smooth pathways into teaching.

2. Create a community of practice, similar to the 60 x 2025 Network, to help develop and spread best practices in teaching pathways.

3. Identify common postsecondary teacher preparation foundational courses and facilitate additional dual-credit certification paths so these opportunities can be expanded statewide for interested students.

ILMEA Explanation

This recommendation seeks to move forward the current ISBE work in college- and career-ready pathways. First seen in the field of Career and Technical Education (CTE), the report makes a case for teaching to be placed in pathway-type programs. (An example of these types of programs is provided in the report on page 12 of the Teach Illinois document.) Promoting career pathways, the reports also highlights the Kansas City Public Schools Diploma+ program, which “requires all sixth grade students attending Kansas City Public Schools to create individualized academic plans or “dashboards.”

Recommendation III: Teacher Preparation

ISBE will work with partners across Illinois to support partnerships between school districts and teacher preparation programs in order to closely align teacher supply and demand.

Strategies

ISBE will work with partners to:

1. Seek and provide funding for a competitive grant program focused on data sharing and preparation alignment to workforce needs to districts and preparation programs pursuing partnerships.

2. Facilitate data sharing by developing or enhancing a data system that teacher preparation programs and districts can use to easily access, share, and align teacher supply and demand data.

3. Serve as a hub of resources by sharing reports, best practices and promoting lessons learned from current partnerships, including sharing lessons learned from the Continuous Improvement Communities of Practice.

4. Support teacher preparation institutions in developing approaches for the recruitment of diverse candidates to tightly align with what districts are seeking.

ILMEA Explanation

This recommendation seeks to facilitate cooperation between teacher preparation programs and school districts. The research section of the report highlights a non-traditional pathway program in Oregon Public Schools that placed bilingual teachers in the classroom full-time while they are obtaining their teaching degree.

Recommendation IV: Teacher Preparation

ISBE will work with partners across Illinois to develop innovative, results-based approaches to educator preparation.

Strategies

ISBE will work with partners to:

1. Study innovative approaches to educator preparation and evaluate effectiveness.

2. Review current statutes and rules to support opportunities for expanded pathways approved as a statewide preparation route.

3. Develop a multi-step process for educator preparation programs to earn formal approval by providing data that demonstrate positive P12 outcomes. This process would align to outcome indicators and measures suggested by the Partnership for Educator Preparation (PEP).

4. Support collaboration by encouraging educator preparation programs (EPPs) and local education agencies (LEAs) to co-design, develop and implement preparation routes that support the workforce needs of their communities and regions (e.g., preparing teachers in shortage areas and preparing a more diverse workforce).

ILMEA Explanation

The recommendation seeks to build data collection and examination into the teacher preparation process. The strategies allow for additional pathways to licensure and for educator preparation programs outside of the historical higher education model. Louisiana’s shift to “full-year residencies for all aspiring teachers” was cited in this report.

Recommendation V: Teacher Licensure

ISBE will work with partners across Illinois to develop and adopt a research-based bar for licensure that leads to a highly effective and diverse workforce.

Strategies

ISBE will work with partners to:

1. Authorize a study on teacher licensure requirements to inform future policy recommendations.

2. Evaluate approaches to the basic skills assessment with a goal of maintaining a high standard for licensure while increasing flexibility and responsiveness to the field.

3. Revise policy by increasing flexibility to meet qualifications for endorsement areas. This may include allowing bilingual educators additional ways to receive foreign language or bilingual endorsements while ensuring expertise and fluency.

ILMEA Explanation

The recommendation seeks to improve the licensure process. ISBE wishes to commission a study on teacher licensure requirements with the goal being future policy recommendations on changes to the current practices.

Recommendation VI: Teacher Recruitment and Retention

ISBE will work with partners across Illinois to promote teacher leadership and career pathways with differentiated responsibilities and appropriate incentives.

Strategies

ISBE will work with partners to:

1. Promote innovative approaches to teacher leadership, including providing support for the teacher leadership pilot program and sharing findings with districts statewide.

2. Expand current teacher leadership opportunities by allowing entities outside of higher education (including districts) to offer leadership endorsements through the demonstration of competencies.

3. Encourage districts to consider incentives and other types of recognition for teachers in leadership roles.

4. Develop statewide consortiums of districts, regional offices of education and educator preparation programs to articulate and support career pathways aligned to leadership options including state licensure, the Illinois teacher leadership endorsement and nationally recognized teacher certificate.

5. Advocate for adequate funding for all districts.

ILMEA Explanation

This recommendation seeks to expand teacher leadership in schools as a way to incentivize career longevity. Pathways are also mentioned as a way for school districts to create systems for educator learning and advancement. Arkansas House Bill 142, which allows for a teacher leader licensure with differing compensation scales, was highlighted as an example of the research into this policy recommendation.

Recommendation VII: Teacher Recruitment and Retention

ISBE will work with partners across Illinois to develop robust teacher mentorship and induction programs.

Strategies

ISBE will work with partners to:

1. Provide research-based guidelines for how and why schools and districts should implement new teacher induction and mentorship programs, ensuring the guidelines are not a one-size fits all approach.

2. Identify, document and share effective new teacher induction and mentorship models and practices. This may include convening peer-learning networks across districts and regions.

3. Encourage districts to use Federal Title Program funds to support new teacher induction and mentorship programs.

4. Advocate for adequate funding to ensure all districts have the resources needed to implement a new teacher induction and mentorship program.

ILMEA Explanation

This recommendation seeks to improve new teacher mentorship and teacher-induction programs. The North Carolina New Teacher Support Program (NC NTSP) was highlighted as an exemplar under this section.

Take Action

ISBE will be collecting public comment on this report only until Tuesday, October 2. If you have comments on any of the policy recommendations or strategies contained in this publication, please email teachillinois@isbe.net.