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State Sends Mixed Messages As Thousands Of Teachers Rush To Avoid Licensing Rule

By Jeanie Lindsay, IPB News | Published on in Education, Government, Statewide News
Jennifer McCormick is the head of the Indiana Department of Education as the last elected Superintendent of Public Instruction. (Jeanie Lindsay/IPB News)
Jennifer McCormick is the head of the Indiana Department of Education as the last elected Superintendent of Public Instruction. (Jeanie Lindsay/IPB News)

Starting next month teachers will need to spend time focused on career awareness in order to renew their licenses. More than 22,700 – about a third of all teachers in the state – have started the process to renew their licenses compared to just 514 at this time last year.

The law itself requires educators to participate in an “externship” or some other career-focused professional development, and the governor’s workforce cabinet plans to send out a webinar for teachers to use.

But Superintendent of Public Instruction Jennifer McCormick says the new career awareness rule frustrates many educators – especially because of contradictory information they’re getting about how to fulfill the requirement.

“The governor’s office put out guidance unbeknownst to us, so you can imagine our surprise when our phones starting ringing saying ‘you really are going to count a field trip for a PGP, for professional growth? I mean it’s disrespectful to our profession’ – I’m like ‘what are you talking about?’” McCormick says.

McCormick says she agrees with the concept, but her department pushed lawmakers to make the change optional before it became law.

The Indiana Department of Education sent out guidance about how teachers might meet the requirements after the rule became mandatory, but McCormick says the different guidance sent by the Governor’s Workforce Cabinet suggested a class lesson or field trip would be enough, and she doesn’t agree with that.

“I think if you’re telling educators that your profession is only as good as to renew a license you just have to do a lesson in class or you have to go on a particular field trip – I mean that was just as insulting as the way it all rolled out,” she says.

Some lawmakers plan to revisit the rules next legislative session. The rule goes into effect for teachers starting the renewal process after July 1.