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Carterville High School

Students study Friday, Dec. 11, 2015, in preparation for exams in the Carterville High School Algebra II class taught by Keenan Clark. 

SPRINGFIELD — The Illinois State Board of Education will consider a seven-point proposal to address the teacher shortage in the state at its Oct. 17 meeting.

State Superintendent Tony Smith on Thursday said the recommendations, available at isbe.net/teachillinois, will be available for public comment until Oct. 2.

“The broad context is that the crisis of underfunding education in Illinois and the deep inequity has created conditions that led to a critical shortage of teachers in Illinois classrooms,” Smith said. “We need to have a broad response in multiple areas.”

Lawmakers during a Nov. 6 hearing of the Senate Education Committee were told that teachers around the country often skip over Illinois when they’re looking for a job because of low starting salaries, license difficulties and other issues.

An Illinois Association of Regional Superintendents of Schools survey found 60 percent of school districts reported trouble filling teaching positions and 75 percent had seen fewer qualified candidates than in previous years.

GOP Gov. Bruce Rauner signed a law in June that allows reciprocity for comparable out-of-state licenses and for ex-teachers with lapsed certificates to qualify for substitute teaching licenses.

The recommendations posted online Thursday are:

• Coordinate a statewide campaign to elevate the teaching profession and inspire young people, especially those of color, to join the profession

• Incentivize and create opportunities for preschool to grade 12 and postsecondary institutions to work together to create streamlined pathways into the teaching profession

• Support partnerships between school districts and teacher preparation programs in order to closely align teacher supply and demand

• Develop innovative, results-based approaches to educator preparation

• Develop and adopt a research-based bar for licensure that leads to a highly effective and diverse workforce

• Promote teacher leadership and career pathways with differentiated responsibilities and appropriate incentives

• Develop robust teacher mentorship and induction programs

Some of these recommendations can be undertaken immediately upon the board's approval, Smith said, and won't require new legislation, while others will.

“We will engage in that (developing legislation) over the fall and early spring and we hope to have legislative action taken by the end of the next session,” Smith said. “Our intention here is to move as fast as possible.”

The school code currently requires that teachers obtain a license that is tied to a bachelor's degree in teaching and successfully passing a set of assessments, said Jason Helfer, deputy superintendent for teaching and learning. The hope is to create other avenues for teacher certification that will include people in other professions who wish to become teachers, with some credit given for experience and demonstrations of competence along with a mentoring program.

One potential pool of prospective teachers is paraprofessionals — teaching assistants — who are already familiar with the classroom, but may not be able to live without their paychecks for the semester of unpaid student teaching now required to obtain a certification.

That's one of the challenges the group looked at during that year of study, Helfer said, as well as “grow your own” programs that promise to move people into the teaching profession. A major consideration is enticing more people of color to choose teaching, especially because the student population has far higher proportions of students of color than the teaching profession would reflect.

Smith said he hopes the new law that provides for evidence-based funding for Illinois districts, which is designed to correct the inequity that has existed until now, will also enable districts to increase teacher compensation and retain good teachers they already have.

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