W.Va. BOE proposes change to teaching requirements

WHEELING — The West Virginia Board of Education wants to get more teachers in the classroom by hiring more experienced professionals with non-education backgrounds.

Board members are considering a proposal to waive the Content Practice Exam — typically called the “Practice 2” — for those with master’s degrees who are seeking to get into education, according to Kristin Anderson, spokeswoman for the West Virginia Department of Education.

The Practice 2 exam is administered to aspiring teachers to test their level of expertise in the specific content area they will be teaching, such as chemistry or math.

Those with master’s degrees in West Virginia already are exempt from taking the “Practice 1” exam, which tests basic skills in reading, writing and arithmetic.

A second change being considered by the board also would waive the “Practice 1” exam for those with bachelor’s degrees who had at least an overall grade point average of 3.5 in college; six hours of college math; six hours of college English, and at least a 3.0 GPA or higher in the math and English classes. They still would have to take the Practice 2 test.

All those wishing to be teachers in West Virginia — master’s and bachelor’s degree-holders alike — must take the “Practice 3” test, the “how to teach” exam.

The proposed changes are being discussed as the state faces a teacher shortage in many counties, particularly in math and science.

“The changes give individuals more flexibility to become a classroom teacher, and the requests for these changes came from the counties,” Anderson said. “We have a teacher shortage in the state. Some counties have a qualified person who has a master’s degree in chemistry, but not a degree in education. And we want them to come teach. Without the change, they would have to go through a number of steps.”

Anderson said the West Virginia Department of Education determined last year 718 permanent teaching positions were unfilled, usually in the math and science classrooms in the more rural areas of the state. Substitute teachers are filling these positions.

Walt Saunders, director of federal programs and assessments for Ohio County Schools, said the school district has no difficulty finding qualified teachers for its schools. He said it benefits from having colleges in the area that place student teachers within the district who often are later hired.

Saunders also thinks it is wrong to believe West Virginia is seeking to “lower” its standards for accrediting teachers.

“‘Lowering’ is the wrong word,” he said. “They are just changing the credibility requirements to get certification.”

Many school districts in West Virginia are having difficulty finding chemistry teachers, but they do find people who have the knowledge in chemistry to teach the class and want to do it. These people have “field knowledge” useful to the classroom, according to Saunders.

“They don’t have the education certification, and this is a pathway to getting it,” Saunders said.

The West Virginia Board of Education is still accepting public comment on the changes, and is expected to make a final decision at a future meeting.

Public comment can be entered at wvde.state.wv.us/policies/ under “Policy 5202 — Minimum Requirements for the Licensure of Professional/Paraprofessional Personnel and Advanced Salary Classifications.” Comments will be accepted until 4 p.m. Oct. 10.