Ohio teachers renew their licenses every five years. Kasich’s proposed budget states, “Beginning September 1, 2018, the state board of education’s rules for the renewal of educator licenses shall require each applicant for renewal of a license to complete an on-site work experience with a local business or chamber of commerce as a condition of renewal. Work experience obtained pursuant to this section shall count toward any required continuing education. Each local professional development committee established under section 3319.22 of the Revised Code shall work with its teachers to identify local work experience opportunities that meet the requirements of this section.”
The governor’s Executive Workforce Board developed the recommendation in response to identified shifts in workforce needs. As of early April, neither the Ohio House nor Senate had voted on their versions of the state budget.
Attention to Business
Ryan Burgess, director of the governor’s Office of Workforce Transformation, says the externship idea is a response to real needs.
“Last fall, the workforce board responded to a challenge the governor put to them with the backdrop of thinking about our economy and workforce, the type and speed of change we’re going to see because of technology, and [how to] come up with ways to train and continually prepare for jobs today and tomorrow,” Burgess said. “About 25 members went back to their local communities, talked to business owners, nonprofits, and educators to locate key workforce challenges.”
The board, comprising representatives from the business community, nonprofit organizations, education institutions, labor establishments, and four state legislators, returned with a series of recommendations, several of which focus on better collaboration between businesses and schools.
“The overarching theme of the report is how do we better align business and education?” Burgess said. “In-demand skills and jobs are changing so quickly. Educators should have greater context when they’re doing career counseling for students for what in-demand skills and jobs are.”
Bursting the ‘Education Bubble’
Michael Andric, assistant principal at Barberton High School in Barberton, Ohio, says programs like the one Kasich is proposing have helped his teachers.
“We have personally seen how teachers have been affected after they have been given the opportunity to visit and speak with local employers in the Barberton community,” Andric said. “From my experience, many teachers have always been in the classroom environment, from K–12, to college, to working in a school. Having the opportunity to go outside of that education bubble and learn about what employers are looking for and what opportunities are available to our students has been a valuable experience for our teachers.”
About a dozen of the 80 teachers in Barberton participate in externships every year. Andric says the program helps teachers help their students.
“For the past few years, we have been working on and developing what we call our ‘Do Your Job Program,'” Andric said. “In brief, this program is focused on teaching defined employability and soft skills to our students. We created a committee of teachers to designate what skills would be taught and when within each grade level. One of the most valuable activities we did with this committee was to get them out to employers in the Barberton community.
“These visits and tours gave our teachers the opportunity to see first-hand what opportunities are available to our students,” Andric said. “This was crucial in getting this message to our students because the teachers are the ones who interact with the students every day. Another benefit of this is that teachers made contacts with these employers that led to collaboration between individual teachers and employers.”
Prefers Voluntary Participation
Burgess said externship parameters under the proposal would be set at the local level by professional development committees.
Andric says teachers should be free to decide for themselves whether to participate in the program.
“Even with these benefits, I’m not sure how I feel about these externships being mandated for every teacher in every school,” Andric said. “Just as students need flexibility in how they learn and grow, I believe the same is true for teachers. I would like to see a well-defined externship option as one pathway for teachers to earn their credentials to earn their license. I believe we’ve been successful with this because the teachers who participated were interested in learning about these opportunities and working with local employers.”
Andric says mandating externships could pose practical challenges.
“The only challenge with what we have done is time and logistics,” Andric said. “It is difficult to schedule teachers out for these visits because they need maximum instructional time with their students. It can also be challenging to work out times that are optimal for the employers and our staff. With that being said, the benefits have outweighed the negatives for the teachers who have participated. Again, we have limited challenges because the teachers have chosen to participate.”
Ashley Bateman ([email protected]) writes from Alexandria, Virginia.