FRANKFORT -– A decision made by the Kentucky Department of Education now absolves a prior mandate for teachers to earn a master’s degree.
Kentucky’s Education Professional Standards Board voted unanimously on Monday to approve a waiver that removes the requirement for teachers to move to Rank II – a move, according to a press release by the KDE, that will provide districts with greater flexibility and support in recruiting and retaining teachers.
Most Kentucky teachers earn Rank II by completing an EPSB-approved master’s degree program. Before today’s action, Kentucky educators were required to obtain Rank II by the second renewal of their five-year professional certificate.
“EPSB’s waiver is a positive step for districts and teachers,” said Wayne Lewis, interim commissioner of the KDE and the executive secretary of the EPSB. “While many teachers will continue to pursue Rank II with either a masters degree or through a continuing education option, they will now be permitted to make the choice to do so and to pursue that advancement on their own personal and professional time lines.”
The vote came as a result of a recommendation of a board committee that reviewed expanding options for Rank II. The committee was composed of stakeholders representing both public and private higher education, school district administrators and teachers.
Jamie Weddington, superintendent of the Lewis County School District, believes the waiver may have the opposite effect on recruiting and retaining teachers.
“I’m not sure how that will ‘provide districts with greater flexibility and support in recruiting and retaining teachers,’ by removing a requirement,” he said.
Weddington says he understands the rising costs of college classes for educators attempting to earn a masters degree, though typically school districts provide pay scaling proportional to an employee’s education. Weddington also said he has never heard of anyone intending to teach back down because of the masters degree requirement.
“If someone wants to be a teacher, they’re going to be a teacher regardless,” he said.
Pay scale or not, Weddington believes the previous education requirement wouldn’t have deterred educators who truly wished to pursue that career in the first place.
Mason County Superintendent Rick Ross said his school district is beginning a program this year for continuing teachers and classified staff to provide scholarships, in order to further the education of the staff. According to Ross, the Mason County School District is among one of three districts in the state which provide faculty with this financial aid.
In the face of the waiver, Ross said it ultimately doesn’t change anything, stating it is a priority to provide better education for the teachers in the school district, and by extension, to the students.
What Ross said he really would like to know is what the EPSB will do to replace the now defunct requirement.
“It can potentially be positive,” Ross said, “but I don’t have all of the details just yet.”