Bishop testifies at legislative hearing on credentialing for educators
Penny Bishop, dean of the University of Maine College of Education and Human Development, provided testimony to the Maine Legislature’s Joint Committee on Education and Cultural Affairs on Feb. 8 about proposed changes to Chapter 115, the state rule governing credentialing for teachers and other educational personnel.
Bishop urged lawmakers to eliminate an Emergency Teacher Certificate provision, which enables people to teach Maine students without any formal preparation, and which was adopted at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Citing research from the Maine Education Policy Research Institute, a joint venture of the UMaine College of Education and Human Development and the University of Southern Maine, she noted that Maine’s annual teacher turnover rate is 8.7%, meaning that, of the approximately 15,000 teaching positions in Maine schools this year, 1,300 of them will need to be refilled next year. A wealth of other research suggests that high-quality teacher preparation programs are key to keeping educators in the teaching workforce.
“Well-prepared teachers stay in schools longer. Strong preparation makes it more likely they will remain in the profession, which results in fewer disruptions to student learning and fewer dollars being spent unnecessarily,” Bishop said in her testimony.
She gave the example of RSU 25, serving the communities of Bucksport, Orland, Prospect and Verona Island, which has replaced an average of 16 teachers per year over the past three years. Conservatively, Bishop said that amounts to $160,000 in additional costs for the district to recruit and on-board new teachers — money, she argued, would be better spent directly investing in the classroom, increasing teacher pay or on other community priorities.
Bishop said Chapter 115 contains other options that give schools flexibility to respond to workforce shortages, such as a Conditional Certificate or a waiver from the commissioner of education for teachers who are not yet fully certified.
Bishop was joined in providing testimony by representatives from other University of Maine System campuses, including Alana Margeson, director of the education program at the University of Maine at Presque Isle; Flynn Ross, chair of teacher education at USM; and Kathy Yardley, dean of the College of Education, Health and Rehabilitation at the University of Maine at Farmington.
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