Proposed Amendments to Part 25 (Educator Licensure)

A number of updates are being proposed for Part 25, the set of rules that specifies requirements for the licensure of educators; addresses standards and criteria for approval of educator preparation programs; and establishes a system of license renewal for teachers, school support personnel and administrators.  The substantive changes being proposed are explained below in the order in which they appear in the rulemaking.

Short-Term Emergency Approval in Special Education (Section 25.48).  Two years ago as part of the agency's rulemaking in response to the educator licensure legislation, staff determined that a need no longer existed for the State Superintendent's issuing approval to allow educators holding certain teacher or transitional bilingual endorsements and who had completed certain special education coursework to be employed as special educators while they completed clinical experiences to qualify them for receipt of the required Learning Behavior Specialist (LBS) I endorsement.  This approval was put in place to ensure an adequate supply of qualified staff while the agency made the transition from categorical credentialing based on disability category to a cross-categorical system.  The approval is valid for three years, during which time the individual must complete the requirements for the LBS I endorsement.  While special education teachers have been required since July 2001 to have an LBS I endorsement, shortages of special educators still exist in many areas of the state.  In 2014 and 2015, for instance, the agency issued 26 approvals for educators to serve in special education positions under this rule.  For this reason, the opportunity to receive this approval should be extended until September 1, 2018, as an incentive for individuals who are not yet fully qualified to pursue opportunities as special educators. 

Early Childhood Endorsement (New Section 25.96).  In November 2011, the Early Childhood Advisory Group (ECAG) began reviewing standards for the early childhood endorsement.  ECAG completed revisions in early 2014, and the Board adopted a rulemaking (Part 26) incorporating the new standards in December 2014, with final rules becoming effective in February 2015.  Several companion recommendations to the ECAG standards are proposed in new Section 25.96 and these include:

Also among the group's recommendations was a requirement that early childhood education preparation programs become entitled by the Gateways to Opportunity Illinois Professional Development System by aligning their coursework to the benchmarks of Gateways' ECE Credential Level 5.  While the requirement for this alignment is being made in Part 26, Section 25.96(d) also informs recipients of the early childhood endorsement who complete programs aligned to the Gateways benchmarks that they are eligible to apply for the Gateways credential.  The credential is optional and will not be required in order to teach in the public schools.

Finally, staff are declining to include an ECAG recommendation that the coursework a candidate receives in the social sciences covers the 10 themes defined by the National Council for Social Studies (i.e., culture; time, continuity and change; people, places and environments; individual development and identity; individuals, groups and institutions; power, authority and governance; production, distribution and consumption; science, technology and society; global connections; and civic ideals and practices) as these themes relate to the disciplinary standards for history, geography, civics and government, economics and psychology.  The recommendation is overly prescriptive.  Instead, early childhood candidates, like those seeking the elementary education credential, will be required to complete coursework addressing at least three of the four areas of the social sciences (i.e., history; geography; civics and government; and economics of Illinois, the United States and the world).

Nationally Certified School Psychologist (New Section 25.230).  P.A. 98-947, effective August 15, 2014, allows an individual to qualify for a school support personnel endorsement for school psychologist if he or she holds national certification from the National Association of School Psychologists.  Evidence of national certification would be required in lieu of completing a school psychologist program approved by the State Board of Education.  In addition to holding national certification, the applicant also would have to meet the requirements for the receipt of the professional educator license (including coursework in special education, English Learners and reading) and pass the content-area test and test of basic skills.

Principal Endorsement (Section 25.337).  Two changes are being proposed in Section 25.337, both of which respond to recent legislation.  P.A. 98-917, effective August 15, 2014, and P.A. 98-1147, effective December 31, 2014, both amended Section 21B-25(2)(B) of the School Code to expand the type of experience required to receive the principal endorsement.  P.A. 98-917 allows for individuals with a school support personnel endorsement to qualify for the principal endorsement if they apply for the endorsement by June 30, 2019.  P.A. 98-1147 enables applicants with either teaching or, until June 30, 2019, school support personnel experience to qualify for the principal endorsement. 

Additionally, new subsection (d) sets forth the conditions under which applicants may qualify for the principal endorsement if they lack four years of teaching experience.  P.A. 96-903, effective July 1, 2010, added the principal endorsement to eventually replace the general administrative endorsement.  The law also allowed for consideration of receipt of the principal endorsement with less than four years of experience based on performance evaluations.  At the time staff promulgated rules for the principal endorsement, however, they indicated that it would be premature to develop rules based on performance evaluations since the performance evaluation system had not yet been implemented.  Starting in school year 2016-17, all school districts in the state are required to implement performance evaluation systems that will consider student growth as a “significant factor” in rating the performance of teachers and principals.  As such, it is appropriate to proceed with rulemaking at this time.

As proposed, candidates with fewer than four years of teaching experience (or until June 30, 2019, school support personnel experience) may qualify for the principal endorsement based on the results of their most recent performance evaluations that include data and indicators of student growth.  The rule is modeled on the requirements for obtaining tenure in less than four years that are set forth in Section 24-11 of the School Code.  That is, a candidate with "proficient" performance evaluation ratings in each annual evaluation may qualify for the principal endorsement with three years of experience, while a person with two years of experience would qualify with "excellent" ratings in two annual evaluations.  Using a standard for receipt of the principal endorsement that is similar to what is required for tenure provides a uniform and consistent measure of teaching quality that is not arbitrarily determined.

Short-term Authorization (New Section 25.430).  As with the short-term emergency approval for special educators discussed above, the short-term authorization allowed school districts under certain circumstances to employ teachers who are licensed for a particular grade level but who lack the endorsement for a content area to which they have been assigned.  Originally put in place to help with teacher shortage areas, staff believed the authorization was no longer needed due to few content areas experiencing a shortage of qualified staff, the State’s adoption of the rigorous common core standards, and requirements under the Elementary and Secondary Education Act relative to highly qualified teachers that help ensure that each classroom has a fully qualified teacher.  For these reasons, the authorization was repealed effective June 2013. 

It has come to staff's attention, however, that a number of districts continue to struggle with recruiting and employing fully qualified staff, particularly in content areas of math and sciences. Rather than having school districts limit coursework or assign unqualified staff to these positions, an approval to employ staff working to become fully qualified is the preferred option.  New Section 25.430 reinstates approval for school districts to employ teachers who have the appropriate grade level endorsement in shortage areas for three years, during which time the individual is expected to take coursework and meet other requirements in order to qualify for the endorsement of assignment.  If the teacher fails to obtain the proper endorsement within those three years, then he or she will be unable to continue teaching in the shortage area for which approval was granted.

Teaching Excellence Program (Section 25.444).  P.A. 98-646, effective July 1, 2014, modified Section 21B-70 of the School Code regarding stipends and other monetary support for teachers and school counselors seeking and/or holding certification from the National Board of Professional Teaching Standards.  Specifically, the law changed the system of priority consideration of certain categories of activities, necessitating changes throughout Section 25.444.  Annual payments and incentives will be provided on a first-come, first-serve basis, regardless of the type of payment being requested.  Further, the new law provided for payments specific to "instructional leadership training for qualified educators interested in supporting implementation of the Illinois Learning Standards or teaching and learning priorities of the State Board".  New subsection (g) establishes a process for making those payments, should money be available for this purpose and the State Superintendent chooses to do so.

Educator Testing (Section 25.720).  Staff are recommending that the 10-year validity of results from the basic skills tests for educator licensure (i.e., Test of Academic Proficiency, or TAP; ACT; SAT) be removed (subsection (b)(6)).  Staff report that most states do not limit the validity period of results from basic skills testing, which assesses proficiency in reading comprehension, language arts, mathematics and writing.  Further, the change should be welcomed by educator preparation programs and candidates for licensure, who submitted public comment opposing the rule three years ago when the limit was last considered.

Other changes in Section 25.720 phase out the Assessment of Professional Teaching (APT).  Starting September 1, 2015, the Teacher Performance Assessment (TPA) will be used to assess teaching proficiency, so the APT is no longer needed.  As proposed, candidates completing student teaching by August 31, 2015, will be given up to five years to complete the APT before it is no longer offered.  This allowance is necessary since the TPA is a performance-based assessment that is conducted as part of a student teaching experience.  APT, on the other hand, is a computer-based test that must be successfully completed before qualifying for the professional educator license.

"Highly Qualified" Physical Education and Health Teachers (Appendix D).  P.A. 98-860, effective January 1, 2015, added Section 21B-200 to the School Code to allow teachers holding endorsements for physical education or health to "meet" the criteria established under the No Child Left behind Act of 2001 (NCLB) for "highly qualified" teachers.  School districts receiving funding under NCLB must employ "highly qualified" teachers in the core subject areas of science, the arts, reading or language arts, English, history, civics and government, economics, geography, foreign language and mathematics.  Appendix D of the agency's rules governing Educator Licensure set forth the criteria for highly qualified educators.  Since neither physical education nor health is considered a core subject area under NCLB, none of those teachers have been required to meet highly qualified criteria.

Section 21B-200 does not require physical education and health teachers to be highly qualified nor does it require school districts to employ highly qualified physical education and health teachers.  "Highly qualified" status remains an option for these types of teachers to meet, as well as an option for a school district to require for employment.  A modification to Appendix D under "Special Circumstances" will make the optional nature of "highly qualified" clear to physical education and health teachers, as well as the school districts that employ them, and let them know what they must do to be considered highly qualified on the same basis as any other general education teacher.  These criteria include holding a professional educator license endorsed for the grade level of instruction and passing the applicable grade level test, passing all applicable content-area tests, holding National Board certification, or earning 100 points under the High Objective Uniform State Standard of Evaluation system, also called HOUSSE.

Miscellaneous.  Other changes being proposed in Part 25 include:

Initial Review by State Board of Education: May 2015

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