Schools, colleges and prospective educators are looking ahead to potential changes in Georgia teacher certification.
Currently, teachers are certified in a one-step process, through a clear renewable certificate they earn upon college graduation. This certification is good for five years.
The proposal on the table is to move from that one-step process of certification to multiple levels, uniting both educator training programs and employers in monitoring the success of new teachers.
“Georgia is only one of 10 states that has a single tier,” said Priscilla Collins, director of school improvement for Gainesville City Schools. She said the state is looking at moving to four levels, essentially creating two steps before a teacher could earn the clear renewable certificate.
First, students going into schools for experience would get a preservice certificate, Collins said. This would be the criminal background check, as well as an assurance student teachers were operating under the same code of ethics and standards as full-time educators.
Once those students graduate and move on to full-time employment, they would be under an induction phase.
“I think the proposal (is for the) induction certificate to last three years,” Collins said.
This is where the proposed changes would incorporate more collaboration between the hiring school systems and the training colleges and universities.
Following the proposed three-year induction phase, the teachers would then be at the “professional level,” Collins said, essentially earning that clear renewable certificate. Like the current certification, it would be renewable every five years.
A fourth tier, called advanced professional level, would be for teachers who receive exemplary ratings in all evaluated areas.
The idea is for graduates to demonstrate they were successful teachers for the first three years before receiving a renewable certification.
Teachers who don’t perform up to par would receive further assistance both from their employer and their university system.
This is where Georgia’s new collaboration with a national network would help.
“What the network will do is give us resources to use so that this process will be the same for all of the higher education institutions in which we work,” said Gainesville Superintendent Merrianne Dyer. “We will have the opportunity to share personnel resources and processes.”
It was announced in October that Georgia is one of seven states joining the National Network for Transforming Educator Preparation. The two-year pilot program is focused on three areas: certification, the approval process for educator preparation providers and refinement of the process for collecting and reporting educator performance data.
“How the school districts and the universities will work together to track our students as they graduate and begin their teaching careers is not known,” said Susan Ayres, associate dean and professor of the University of North Georgia’s College of Education. “We’ll be able to gauge the impact that they have on the achievement of the students they teach. How that will play out in terms of systems for monitoring teachers in those first three years is unclear.”
The Georgia Professional Standards Commission oversees teacher certification. The proposed changes are not concrete yet, but Collins said the 2014-15 school year is a tentative beginning time frame.
Ayres said colleges and universities already maintain a lot of data on students.
“Frankly, the burden for us ... (is) the technical systems and data collection and management that are going to be required from the state for those school districts and the colleges are sort of unfunded mandates,” she said. “And we’re hurting. We’re lean as it is in terms of staff ... that’s the challenge.”