Tennessee Senate OKs Automatic High School Teaching License for College Instructors

Anyone teaching in a college could be automatically eligible to teach in high schools, according to a bill passed by the Tennessee state Senate Monday.

SB 2302 would allow any college instructor to receive a license to teach their subject of expertise without additional training in education if they have taught in a certified college or university full-time for two years or part-time for four years. Generally, a K-12 teacher in Tennessee must be licensed through coursework, a teacher preparation program and skills testing.

The proposed legislation would allow college instructors to forgo those requirements, the Knoxville News Sentinel reports. An amendment would require instructors to be in good standing with their colleges.

The proposal also allows former professors to acquire a teaching license, regardless of how much time has passed since they were last teaching in college.

The bill is sponsored by Republican state Sen. Jim Summerville and supported by StudentsFirst, a national lobbying and advocacy group founded by former Washington, D.C. superintendent Michelle Rhee.

The StudentsFirst website states that the bill would "enable Tennessee to recruit talented individuals into the classroom."

Democratic state Sen. Andy Berke acknowledged that the bill emphasizes content knowledge, but noted that it ignores the need for teacher training and practice in classroom management.

"We need teachers that can do it all," Berke told WPLN News. "After all, even our state recognizes, currently, the importance of the ability to teach on top of content knowledge."

A report published last year, however, revealed that Teach for America training programs in Nashville and Memphis tended to outperform the state's traditional college and alternative certification programs. Half of a teacher's annual evaluation in Tennessee consists of classroom observations.

The House version of the bill is slated to be taken up in committee Wednesday.

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this article stated that StudentsFirst drafted the bill.

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