The state Board of Education is trying to cut down on the number of times your child is taught by teachers who aren’t fully qualified in their subject areas.
Currently, anyone with a bachelor’s degree may obtain an “emergency teaching certificate” which allows him or her to enter into a one-year teaching contract with a school that desperately needs to fill positions — often in hard-to-hire areas like special education, math, science and foreign languages.
Districts can request renewals for these certificates for the same teacher year after year — but that could be coming to an end.
A new proposal, set to go before the board next month, would limit each teacher to only three emergency certificates.
The measure is in response to a mandate from the federal government that Arizona reduce the number of teachers using emergency certificates, said Karen Butterfield, the state’s associate superintendent for academic achievement.
“We’ve got administrators and so forth telling us that these folks keep getting emergency certificates renewed and renewed and not following through with getting their full certifications,” said Butterfield, who added that rural districts are more apt to rely on emergency certificates.
People who request the certificates can range from a teacher moving from another state to a current teacher who wants to move to the special education arena or a professional statistician who wants to teach math.
Some East Valley districts said the changes would have little impact on their schools.
Janice Ramirez, assistant superintendent of human resources in the Mesa Unified School District, said her district only requests emergency certificates for a teacher two years in a row.
“That should give a person adequate time if they are serious about getting their regular certification,” Ramirez said.
The Scottsdale Unified School District tries to only use emergency certificates for one year per teacher, said spokesman Keith Sterling, who said 26 of 1,650 district teachers currently use them.
But the proposed rule could be a roadblock for some language instructors because the state does not offer any certification or endorsement to teach languages like Chinese and Japanese.
For example, the Mesa district’s new Chinese and Japanese teacher has a degree in East Asian languages and can teach at community colleges, but he needed an emergency certificate to teach high school, explained Suzie DePrez, assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction.
In three years, that might become a problem — but Butterfield said the state might add new certificate tests.
“We don’t have the foreign language as an approved area because it’s not yet a state requirement,” she said. “As Chinese becomes a more popular course, that’s something we’ll have to look at down the road.”
The Arizona Board of Education will hold a public hearing for proposed changes in emergency teaching certificates 10 a.m. today at the Arizona Department of Education, 1535 W. Jefferson, Room 417, Phoenix. For information, call (602) 542-5057.