- Associated Press - Thursday, November 13, 2014

BOISE, Idaho (AP) - Idaho’s board of education unanimously approved a new teacher certification process Thursday with the promise of approving an increased teacher pay plan later this month.

The board voted to approve the rules after spending the past few months listening to hundreds of concerned teachers, parents and school administrators from across the state.

“We feel that we have come up with a rule that will work. We have to remind ourselves occasionally that rules can change. There is flexibility in the process,” board President Emma Atchley said. “Today I hope will be a historic day that we can say we have taken a significant step forward.”

Under the new certification plan - commonly referred to as tiered licensure - beginning teachers with less than three years of experience will be required to obtain a residency certificate.

Residency teachers will be evaluated by their local school districts based on student growth. This requirement sparked the most heated feedback from teachers unions, which objected to licensure being tied to local evaluations.

In response, the board amended the plan to back down significantly from requiring increased accountability. For example, the board removed two new assessment tests as a requirement to determine student growth for residency teachers.

Teachers with more than three years of experience would go on to earn a professional certificate. However, the board also amended that certificate by removing new performance-based requirements to renew professional certificates. That means under the new tiered licensure plan, teachers can renew their professional certificates by acquiring six education credits during a five-year span, which is the current requirement.

Before voting, the board focused primarily on how the new plan would apply to new teachers coming from out of state. Concerns were raised that the plan may favor a less experienced out-of-state teacher rather than an Idaho teacher trying to move up the ranks.

“I think the whole reason we have the residency mechanism in tiered licensure was to ensure that we have a quality product, a quality teacher, when we give them certification,” said board member Richard Westerberg. “So that same logic would be true even when we have an out-of-state teacher come in. We still want to make sure we have a quality candidate, because they haven’t gone through our residency.”

The plan to increase teacher pay, which is called the career ladder and is tied to the new certification process, has not yet been approved.

The two plans are part of Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter’s 20 reform measures he approved last year to help improve Idaho’s education system. The tiered licensure and career ladder plans were considered the most pivotal elements to retain and attract teachers in Idaho schools.

Democratic state Sen. Janie Ward-Engelking, of Boise, said she was pleased with the changes the board made to the rules. However, she warned that if teacher pay does not increase as well, the new plan will not attract more and better teachers.

“As it stands, it’s not attractive,” she said. “But if we raise the pay, it will be attractive. We want to keep our best and brightest. Raising the pay is going to help do that.”

The tiered licensure rules must now go before the state Legislature for approval soon after the session starts in Boise on Jan. 12.

Board members plan to meet soon to address the career ladder pay plan, but no date has been set.

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