Ohio Partnership Sways Teacher Licensure Legislation
Ohio recently proved that collaboration across education stakeholders can increase communication and partnerships, as well as shape state legislation.
In fall 2017, a superintendent group representing the Western Ohio Advocacy Network (WOAN) worked with Ohio Senator Matthew Huffman to craft the Ohio School Deregulation Act (SB216), intended to increase local control of education. The initial bill proposed reverting back to having only two general education licensure bands: Grades 1-8 and 7-12, a radical departure from Ohio’s existing licensure bands: PK- 3, 4-9, and 7-12. SB 216 also proposed moving teacher licensure bands from Ohio’s Administrative Code (controlled by the Ohio Department of Education) to Ohio’s Revised Code (with legislative oversight), which meant that any future changes would require legislative action.
Ohio’s institutions of higher education expressed considerable concerns about these proposed changes. In addition to losing a critical focus on addressing needs of early childhood education, the proposed SB216 also eliminated a licensure band designed to meet the unique needs of middle-level learners. Initially, representatives from the Ohio Association of Colleges for Teacher Education (OACTE) the State University of Education Deans (SUED), and the Ohio Association of Private Colleges of Teacher Education (OAPCTE) provided joint testimony to the state’s Senate Education Committee opposing the changes to the licensure bands. Recognizing that there was considerable momentum behind the bill, educator preparation programs started reaching out directly to PK-12 partners to identify the concerns with the existing licensure bands.
Some districts felt limited by existing requirements that teachers working outside of their initial licensure bands pass the Ohio Assessment for Educators, even when the teacher would be moving up or down only one grade level. This perceived limitation seemed to be driving much of the support for SB 216. After hearing feedback from PK-12 partners, OACTE, SUED, and OAPCTE worked to develop a compromise: PK-Grade 5, Grades 4-9, and Grades 7-12 licensure bands, allowing authorized superintendents to assign teachers to classrooms one grade level above or below their licensure band for up to three years without completing any additional requirements. SUED and OACTE reached out to over 50 PK-12 partners to obtain feedback on the proposed changes, including members of WOAN. The compromise garnered considerable support and was shared with legislators, and ultimately approved by Ohio’s Senate, House, and signed by Governor John Kasich in August 2018.
While changes may not have been desired by many educator preparation programs, negotiating a successful compromise represented an understanding and validation of immediate and compelling needs of Ohio’s PK-12 leaders. Effective collaboration opened lines of communication between public and private educator preparation programs, PK-12 district partners, and legislators. With future legislative changes in education predictable, working collaboratively proves to yield the best outcomes for education in Ohio.
OACTE, SUED, and OAPCTE representatives include Julie McIntosh (OACTE president), Mary Murray (OACTE past president), Dawn Shinew (SUED chair-elect), Rae White (OAPCTE past resident), and Jim Wightman (OAPCTE).