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New Teacher Certification Regulations Prioritize Teacher Preparation and Ongoing Learning

Council on Elementary and Secondary Education Unanimously Passes Comprehensive Educator Certification Proposal


PROVIDENCE, R.I. – The Council on Elementary and Secondary Education voted unanimously tonight to approve updated teacher certification regulations that increase practical experience for teacher candidates, open up more flexible professional pathways into education, and establishes ongoing professional learning requirements for all teachers.

The vote comes after nine months of extensive public engagement and discussion, including four public hearings and 13 Council meetings that helped to create a comprehensive proposal aimed at strengthening Rhode Island’s educator workforce.

“Just last week, we released our RICAS results and underscored the need to adopt the same kind of long-term strategy that has made Massachusetts the gold standard for public education,” said Barbara S. Cottam, Chair of the Rhode Island Board of Education. “A meaningful approach to professional learning for educators has been a crucial part of the Massachusetts strategy, and a similar focus will define the future of Rhode Island classrooms. As Chair of the Board, I commend the Council for taking decisive action to better prepare teachers, better serve students, and to ensure that all educators have access to the kinds of opportunities that will improve teaching and learning in our classrooms.”

“This is an exciting step forward for education in Rhode Island. At the same time that we expand career pathways for our students, we need to invest in pathways for our educators. This set of regulations will serve to support and enhance the practice of all educators, from teacher candidates to first-year teachers to 20-year veterans of the classroom,” said Daniel P. McConaghy, Chair of the Council on Elementary and Secondary Education.

Rhode Island’s new teacher certification regulations include three main components: teacher preparation, pathways into the profession, and ongoing professional learning. Most notably, the new regulations double the student teaching requirement from one semester to one year for future teachers, and require ongoing professional learning for all certified teachers.

“In order to be ready on day one of teaching, teachers need a strong foundation with more hands-on experience, and we need to carry that approach – anchored in practice – throughout an educator’s career. Great teachers are always learning, and we need a system that supports this continuous improvement,” said Ken Wagner, Commissioner of Elementary and Secondary Education. “Every strong organization invests in its people. These updated regulations will empower schools, districts, teacher preparation programs, and the state, to invest in the people who make education come alive for students.”

Currently, teacher preparation programs in Rhode Island include a 12-week student teaching requirement. Under the updated regulations, the state would shift to a full year residency model, doubling the amount of time spent gaining practical, hands-on experience before graduating and joining the teaching profession.

Professional learning requirements would be phased-in over time and prorated during the first few years of implementation. Once the regulations are fully phased in, teachers will be required to complete 20 professional learning units each year, and new teachers applying for initial certifications will be required to complete 30 units.

To support professional learning, the Rhode Island Department of Education (RIDE) will build the Educator Course Network (ECN). Modeled after the Advanced Course Network in place for students, the ECN will be a network of professional learning providers that offer quality, vetted learning opportunities, with an emphasis on sustained professional learning, rather than one-off professional development days. Offerings through the ECN could include credit-bearing coursework at institutions of higher education, traditionally district-provided opportunities, and no-cost options like teacher-to-teacher professional learning communities.

“Rhode Island has incredible educators. They work tirelessly each day in and out of their classrooms to strengthen their professional practice and they are great models for their students of what it means to be a lifelong learner. It is so important that we recognize their efforts and support our teachers with professional learning opportunities that are relevant, engaging and worth their valuable time,” said Colleen A. Callahan, Ed.D., member of the council and Professional Issues Director for the Rhode Island Federation of Teachers and Health Professionals (RIFTHP). “I think these revised regulations recognize that need, and I’m grateful to the Commissioner and the Department of Education for listening to the issues raised during the public hearing process. Now we can work together with our district partners and educators to plan and implement professional learning opportunities reflective of the needs and challenges facing Rhode Island’s students and educators.”

“Throughout this process, we had the opportunity to speak with teachers at every stage of their career, administrators, and community members. My priority has been and continues to be protecting the interests of both Rhode Island students and our talented educators, and I believe these regulations represent a compromise that all stakeholders can understand and appreciate,” said Larry Purtill, member of the Council and President of the National Education Association of Rhode Island (NEARI).

Through the certification requirements, RIDE will also reintroduce the concept of endorsements on a certification, allowing teachers to demonstrate additional skills and competencies to schools and districts without achieving a full certification. RIDE would start by introducing an English Learner endorsement and a reading/dyslexia endorsement, two key areas to improving student outcomes.

Other certification changes include:

  • Expanding full reciprocity to teachers from Connecticut and Massachusetts
  • In shortage areas, giving teachers with relevant career experience or expertise seven years to get to certification, as opposed to seven one-year renewals
  • Establishing cultural competence as a shortage area in the Rhode Island educator workforce, thereby opening an alternate recruitment pathway
  • Establishing endorsement areas on teacher certifications, or demonstrated areas of competence short of a full certification (with initial endorsements established in reading/dyslexia and English language learners)
  • Aligning teacher requirements in Career and Technical Education (CTE) with industry expectations
  • To be consistent with the certification requirements of all school-based clinicians, requiring only a nursing degree for certification as a Registered School Nurse

These certification requirements would apply to any certifications that are up for renewal in 2020 or beyond. To view the complete set of regulations, visit the RIDE website.

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