HB 197 Educator Licensing Amendments

Depositphotos_28437707_s.jpgI would like to share my principles, the impetus, my intent and the facts.  First, if you are following this bill you likely saw I removed it from the committee agenda.  This was so I could make a few amendments and talk further with the UEA and Superintendent Smith, among others.  My intent is to end up with good policy.

My principles (that apply to this):  I'm a Republican and a conservative.  I believe in free markets.  I'm opposed to regulatory capture.  I believe regulatory capture almost never leads to the best results.  I don't like the legislature acting as the super school board, and I believe in local control.  I feel the legislature may have a role in relieving regulatory capture that exists in government agencies that inhibit public benefit.  I feel regulatory capture should not be sanctioned or imposed by the government in the private sector either.  These are the principles that guide my intent.

The impetus: Much has been researched and written on education quality.  A common thread is the changing role of education leaders, the Superintendent, the Principal or building manager.  Over the years I have studied much regarding the evolving skill sets required of Principals.  And I have experienced the challenge of trying to hire a principal who has a wide range of leadership and managerial skills.  While one necessary component is the Principal as Instructional Leader, some schools may require more, a more comprehensive leader who is also a community leader and a change agent—to deal with more accountability, better outcomes, to do more with less, to be innovative.  Some areas of our country are pushing toward site-based management.  Indeed, I have heard members of this group talk a lot about more local control even at the school level.  But when there have been attempts to push certain decision-making and funding to the school level, there has been push back from principals, citing discomfort or lack of knowledge in the area.  This is a huge barrier to pushing down more site-based decisions and increasing local control.  And as we know, some districts are very large and span a range of communities.  It would be beneficial and desirable to have more decision-making at the school level that meets the needs of that community. 

So several states have addressed this challenge in an innovative way.  They have created Master's of Business Administration degree programs that focus on public education and public education leadership.  Six states have universities with such programs.  I believe they are creating some of the most knowledgeable, capable and qualified people to meet our current and evolving needs in education leadership.  But in Utah our current licensing restrictions will not allow us to hire them, and there are financial deterrents as well attached to licensure.  

As you all know, we are headed into an increasing teacher shortage.  This also lends to a shrinking pool of administrators.  At a time when we need more options and more people in a pool of highly qualified individuals to lead our schools to improved outcomes and different approaches, it makes no sense at all to prohibit some of the most qualified persons coming out of our universities.

We can be on the cutting edge of innovation and disruption or we can keep doing what we’ve always done.  Remember the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.  This is no slight to our current principals.  Principal Quarnberg of Copper Hills High, where my children attend, is Principal of the Year and an amazing leader.  He is beloved of this community and has created a family of a student body.  He has several outstanding vice principals to help him along.  But one could imagine he might like to have one of these MBA’s as a vice principal over a particular area of school administration that could benefit from a different skill set, range of experience or way of thinking.  

The intent of this bill is to widen what is currently a very narrow restriction of only a single degree for school leadership.  Leadership training can be found in multiple disciplines, and we want the districts to have more choices.  We know that great education leaders do not have to have had experience as a teacher, any more than Mitt Romney needed to be a skier to know how to support Olympians or a city manager/mayor needs to be a police officer to supervise the police department.  And we should not concede to the argument “but education is different.”  Fantastic leadership is fantastic leadership and our children and teachers should be able to benefit from it where we can find it.

Some of the most notable research on this subject was conducted by Dr. Art Levine (http://www.edschools.org/pdf/ESfinal313.pdf).  It followed cohorts of graduates from most of the education leadership programs in the country and determined that little from the education program prepared them for the job.  An overwhelming majority of principals reported their real education was purely on the job.  Additionally, his research reveals that most state licensure exams are equally irrelevant to identifying strong education leadership traits and understanding the requirements of the job.  I was privileged to speak with Dr. Levine last week, and he fully supports this effort. 

Of note, our current State Superintendent Brad Smith is a non-traditional education leader who demonstrated his ability as an effective education leader while leading the Ogden School District.  He increased graduation rates over 150 students per year at Ogden High.  But the best thing he did was reinstate teaching and learning as the focus for the school system, championing great teachers as their top instructional leader and resisting the temptation toward distractions from the primary mission that can often creep into school systems.  He became the best ally for the great teacher.  And though initially he was not readily accepted and some teachers did not like him at first, many teachers came to be his greatest supporter because he elevated them as professionals.

But Superintendent Smith could not become a principal under our current licensing regulations.  Nor could we hire those new types of education leaders coming out of Texas, Wisconsin, Indiana, Georgia, New Mexico, Ohio, and Massachusetts.  And that should change.

Here is what the bill does.  The bill requires that the education administrator license not just be limited to ed degrees and teaching experience only.  Beyond that, we leave it to the USOE to develop the rest.  There is current language in the bill that has some allowances that could be included in the licensure.  That was our attempt to say that certain minimum requirements could still be added by the USOE, but that was confusing to some and interpreted as the only items that could be added.  So we are removing that language completely, which will clarify that the USOE will develop all of the licensure requirements.

Here is what the bill doesn’t do.  It does not require a district to change anything at all in their policies or hiring practices.  If they choose to only advertise for and hire an experienced teacher with an Ed degree, they may.  Nothing restricts them or requires any change at all.  It does, however, give them a choice if they want to open up their recruitment and hiring options.   

There is some fear being expressed right now about inexperienced and unqualified persons coming in as school principals.  The superintendents of school districts will continue to hire principals as always.  And I don’t think a superintendent is going to hire a CEO from a widget factory who has never worked with kids before as some kind of experiment. 

Education is changing.  It needs to change.  And while many sectors of our world have benefitted from disruptive technologies and innovation, education has not kept pace.  Education in America has remained relatively unchanged in how we approach it, how we deliver it, and how we improve it.  We will see many bills that will attempt to bandaid it, throw a program at it, or just throw money at it.  It is vital that we begin to look at different and more options for education leadership to give districts choices that will best meet the needs of their schools and communities.


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published this page in Blog 2015-02-08 12:31:16 -0700