Carney signs bills simplifying licensing for teachers

Gov. John Carney, accompanied by lawmakers and education officials, signs into law a bill altering licensure requirements for teachers. (Submitted photo/Dave Chambers)

DOVER — Gov. John Carney signed Thursday two bills that simplify the licensure requirements for educators, with the stated goal of allowing the state to attract and retain more teachers and other school personnel.

House Substitute 1 for House Bill 143 eliminates the general knowledge exam for teachers, gives new educators coming from out of state an extra year to take the specialized assessment and offers more administrative support for beginning teachers.

“Because we recruit 45 to 50 percent of our teachers from out of state, the performance assessment in particular was a concern, and so we needed to find a way where teachers coming from out-of-state colleges and universities wouldn’t see that as a tremendous barrier to come to Delaware,” Delaware Association of School Administrators Executive Director Tammy Croce said. “Making them finish that in one year, their first year of teaching, would be extremely difficult.”

A 2013 bill had added requirements to become a teacher in Delaware, but some officials had begun to worry those provisions were too strict. Other states do not have preconditions like the general knowledge test.

Delaware pays teachers less than surrounding states do, and so the First State needs to lean on other things to attract educators, Dr. Croce said.

“We have to sell on the community, the relationships, the support we can provide, and a lot of studies do show support is one of the main things that new teachers are looking for,” she said.

The changes in the bill will be beneficial to other school workers beyond teachers, main sponsor Rep. Kim Williams, D-Newport, said.

“I’ll give you an example. Someone who works as a nurse at the hospital for 30 years retires and now wants to become a nurse at a school, they had to take the (general assessment) and if they didn’t pass it within a certain period of time, they weren’t licensed,” she said. “So, we removed that, because they’ve had all the job training you want.”

“And it’s just a basic test of reading, writing and mathematics, but nurses’ technical writing is very different from essay writing, and the mathematics they do is very different,” Dr. Croce added. “So, we just found that to be an exam that was too general in nature and really didn’t help us vet out people for the specific work that we needed them to do.”

House Bill 193 makes it easier for individual coming to teaching from “alternative routes” — previous careers, rather than straight out of college — to obtain a license.

House Substitute 1 for House Bill 143, the product of negotiations between several stakeholders, received just one vote against in the General Assembly earlier this year. House Bill 193 saw no opposition on the chamber floors.

The former was technically signed into law in June to allow the state to begin putting into place the changes, meaning Thursday’s signing of House Substitute 1 for House Bill 143 was simply ceremonial.

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