Apr 22, 2024 - News

Educators raise concerns about new literacy licensure requirements

Illustration of darts missing a target on a chalkboard.

Illustration: Lindsey Bailey/Axios

Educators are calling out the Indiana Department of Education for a "disappointingly brief" webinar about new teacher licensure requirements aimed at improving literacy.

Why it matters: One in five Hoosier third graders can't read on grade level. They risk falling behind in their education and, after changes to state law, being held back.

Catch up quick: Over the last two years, state lawmakers have passed several bills changing the way Indiana schools teach young children to read.

  • One of those changes, made this year, requires educators who teach pre-kindergarten through sixth grade and special education students to earn a "literacy endorsement."

Between the lines: The requirements — 80 hours of professional development and passing an exam — are frustrating many teachers who already feel beleaguered by moving targets and negative rhetoric and have been asking for more professional respect from state officials for years.

  • Last week's webinar was supposed to provide clarity on the new requirements and answer questions.

Reality check: The 13-minute, prerecorded video left many wanting.

What they're saying: "The webinar … failed to meet the reasonable expectations of our educators who are seeking clarity and support amidst significant professional changes," said Keith Gambill, president of the Indiana State Teachers Association, in a statement.

  • "Such a format is not only insufficient but also disrespectful to the dedicated professionals who are striving to understand these new requirements."

Threat level: ISTA says the new requirements have "significantly increased the stress on teachers' already full schedules" and there are concerns that frustrated teachers will retire early or leave the profession when their licenses expire, rather than take these additional steps for renewal.

  • The requirements start next year for new teachers.
  • For educators renewing their licenses, they don't begin until 2027.

The other side: When asked about the concerns raised by ISTA, a spokesperson for the education department told Axios a 2-page memo was sent last week "to clarify any questions regarding Indiana's new literacy endorsement."

What's next: ISTA has asked the education department to hold additional live webinars with time for teachers to ask questions.

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