Legislature strengthens teacher standards

By Bobby Harrison/NEMS Daily Journal

JACKSON – The Legislature provided funds to attract top students to the teaching profession and also increased the standards for all new teachers during the 2013 session.
Efforts to increase teacher quality were part of Gov. Phil Bryant’s Education Works agenda. Part of the governor’s proposal did not survive the 2013 session, but much of it did, including the enhanced standards for teachers.
Bryant spokesman Mick Bullock said, “Governor Bryant understands that having quality teachers in our classrooms is critical to improving Mississippi’s public education system. Governor Bryant wants to attract the best and brightest to the teaching field.”
Under the legislation that passed, to receive a license to teach, starting in 2015, a person will have to either score at the nationally recommended passing score on Praxis, a pre-profesion skills test for teachers, or have scored a 21 on the ACT college entrance exam. Plus, the applicant would have needed to have a 2.75 grade-point average in his or her area of certification.
Currently, most of the schools of education in the state’s public universities require a lower score on the Praxis as established by the state Board of Education and a minimum GPA that varies.
The original legislation called for the new standards to be to enter a school of education. But the state College Board objected, saying having a group other than university officials setting academic standards could put their accreditation at risk. In a compromise, the Legislature and governor agreed to tie the standards to teacher certification as opposed to entry into schools of education.
Teacher education students scoring a 28 on the ACT and having a 3.5 GPA can receive a scholarship. And students who receive those scholarships can receive an annual $6,000 salary supplement for up to five years for teaching in a low-performing Mississippi school district.
bobby.harrison@journalinc.com