New teaching degrees would come with a warranty, if bills pass

Capital News Service

LANSING — The House Education Reform Committee is considering revamping teacher education standards in Michigan.

The bipartisan legislative package is three years in the making, according to Rep. Daniela Garcia, R-Holland. The package was introduced in the House at the end of February.

“New teachers don’t feel they have been prepared to teach in classrooms,” said Garcia, who is a member of the committee.

“We need to have a seamless education system,” Garcia said. “Our institutions need to prepare our teachers, and our teachers need to feel prepared so our students feel prepared.”

Teacher preparation institutions would need to meet the new requirements by June 2019 if the proposal becomes law.

The proposed policy would require colleges and universities to educate their student teaching candidates about social and emotional learning practices and teacher evaluation tools.

Institutions would also require at least 90 hours of classroom observation from their student teachers.

Some student experiences would be in classrooms that have pupils with disabilities, who are English language learners or in schools with high levels of poverty. Experienced teachers in the continuing education program would also be required to observe classrooms with students in different situations.

The bills would require that teacher education institutions provide a 2-year “warranty” to its graduates. The warranty would pay for any additional education they need if they received  unsatisfactory teaching assessments.

“Teachers will have the opportunity to participate in a warranty education program,” Garcia said. “The intent is that teacher education institutions won’t increase tuition to cover these fees.”

The package also would encourage mentoring of new teachers through a new Master Teacher Corps that the Department of Education would create.

“Master teachers would engage with policymakers, mentor new teachers and provide professional development across Michigan,” said committee Chair Tim Kelly, R-Saginaw.

Master teachers would receive $5,000-$10,000 a year for participating in the program, in addition to their regular classroom teaching salary.

Mentors would receive $1,000 for each student teacher they work with.

Suzanne Gibbs, a fourth-grade teacher from Spring Arbor, said,  “I’ve been teaching nearly 20 years. It’s a wonderful opportunity to allow (student teachers) in my classroom.”

Gibbs testified at a committee hearing that education programs aren’t meeting the needs of student teachers.

“Having student teachers in the classroom requires a lot of time because you’re filling in a lot of gaps that our universities just don’t give to our candidates,” Gibbs said.  “They’re young, they don’t have the experience of being in front of 28 students who have completely different needs.”

The committee is still reviewing the legislation.