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Alternative teacher certification law to take effect in June

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — The chair of the House Education Committee has a goal of possibly filling 100 teaching vacancies in West Virginia through the alternative teacher certification methods that will soon be permitted under state law.

House Education Chair Amanda Pasdon (R-Monongalia, 51)

Delegate Amanda Pasdon (R-Monongalia, 51) said student success depends on having qualified teachers.

“It comes right down to who they have in front of them, who’s giving them that quality education,” Pasdon said on Tuesday’s MetroNews “Talkline.”

“I think it’s just a wonderful opportunity to expand our children’s horizons to, right now, what they may not be experiencing.”

The alternative teacher certification legislation lawmakers approved during the 2015 Regular Legislative Session will take effect on June 12.

Currently, Pasdon said there are more than 700 teaching vacancies in West Virginia which has the highest number of teachers instructing students outside of their fields of study. This law, she said, should reduce that number in critical need areas, either because of subject matter or geography.

“By opening the route to alternative certification, by allowing highly qualified individuals into the classroom that have these specific skills related to subject matter will ultimately make an immediate impact in our students’ lives, in their day-to-day education,” Pasdon said.

Critics of the alternative certification programs, though, have argued West Virginia could better fill its many teacher vacancies by offering more competitive salaries. “I’m just concerned that it’s just a short-term solution,” said Christine Campbell, president of the West Virginia American Federation of Teachers, of the law.

Pasdon does not disagree about the need for better pay, but her proposal for a multi-year teacher pay raise plan did not get legislative approval this year.

According to the law, to be eligible for an alternative program teacher certificate, a person will have to be 18 years old; have at least a bachelor’s degree; pass the same basic skills and subject matter tests required for traditional program candidates; be a U.S. citizen “of good moral character;” be “physically, mentally and emotionally qualified” to perform the duties of a teacher; receive a formal offer of employment in an area of critical need and shortage from a county superintendent; have relevant academic or occupational qualifications and clear a criminal history check.

The requirements are slightly different for those wanting to teach special education or in vocational and technical areas.

Teach for America, an example of one alternative teaching program, recruits recent college graduates and professionals of all backgrounds to teach for two years in urban or rural public schools.

The use of such programs will be up to county school officials.

“This isn’t really anything from us saying, ‘You have to do this.’ This is just saying, if you have an empty classroom, you have a need that you cannot fill, then we are going to give you an alternative means to do that and you use it to the best of your ability,” Pasdon said.

An alternative program teaching contract can be renewed as long as a teacher makes “satisfactory progress” in the alternative program which will have individualized requirements.

As written in the law, if counties have to reduce teacher numbers, the alternative teachers cannot displace professional educators.

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