“We are healing.” Superintendent Glenda Ritz speaks to News 10 about spike in new teacher licenses

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TERRE HAUTE, Ind. (WTHI) – Efforts have been underway to boost the number of licensed teachers across Indiana. Finally, all of that hard work is paying off.

After a couple years of area schools fretting that there aren’t enough teachers to fill every classroom, the state is now seeing an uptick in the number of people becoming educators.

New data has been released by the state superintendent. In recent years, the Hoosier state saw a decline of more than 34 percent in the number of individuals receiving initial practitioner educator licenses. That includes a 20 percent decline from 2014 to 2015.

“We had seen a sharp decline in the number of initial licenses we’ve been issuing at the state level,” said Glenda Ritz, during an interview with News 10.

As Indiana Superintendent of Public Instruction, Ritz is familiar with the disappointing numbers. Last school year the department of education issued around 3,800 licenses. She says that’s the lowest it’s been in the last six years. “The teacher shortage is actually real in the state of Indiana.”

New numbers reveal a sharp turnaround. The state is reporting a more than 18 percent increase in the number of license recipients from 2015 to 2016.

“We’re starting the healing process of what happened with legislation back in 2012, but we have a lot of work to do, and I look forward to bringing several things to the legislature in this session,” said Ritz.

A shortage in educators has been blamed on mandated policies. Teacher pay discouraged students from entering the education field. Those policies included, she says, tying pay to student performance on tests like ISTEP+ and taking away local control and flexibility from the salary formula.

“We need to get compensation back in hands at the local level, and make sure we have reasonable expectations for teacher evaluation and compensation tied to test scores,” explained Ritz.

While the new numbers do not solve the shortage, Ritz said they reflect a strong commitment to the education profession and those at the heart of the issue.

“I have an education agenda to make sure we are always serving the needs of the children and great teachers is part of that.”

This is the first time in three years the number of new teachers receiving licenses has increased.