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Alternative Utah Teaching Path Put Into Effect

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Critics of the plan say they would like to make modifications over qualifications for teachers.

A new alternative teacher licensing program went into effect in Utah on Friday. The plan, which was approved back in June, requires that applicants have a bachelor's degree and eventually pass Utah’s teacher certification test.

Although proposed as way to get more teachers into increasingly crowded classrooms, Heidi Matthews, president of the Utah Education Association, called the solution shortsighted.

“It’s a shortsighted approach that does not address the fundamental and structural problems that are creating Utah’s teacher shortage,” Matthews said. “Some of these come down to increased burdens for our existing teachers who are already dealing with an overwhelming workload with large class sizes, ongoing teacher training that they have, and now an additional mentor requirement on top of the mentoring that has already been in place with the different alternative routes.”

Those admitted into the teaching pathway, after an ethics review and background check, will also be mentored and supervised by experienced educators for three years. According to the Utah State Office of Education, 42 percent of teachers leave the profession within the first five years, with a third of those leaving after the first year. Matthews said that experience needs to be emphasized in hiring decisions.

“It wasn’t until I really understood how to inspire kids and to manage a classroom that I was able to teach effectively. People who will follow this pathway, they’re not the issue,” she said. “These are goodhearted people who see a need and are willing to step up and address it. The issue is what level of expertise do we need them to have so that we’re not putting our students at risk.”

Utah’s school-aged population continues to climb while enrollment in education colleges decreases.