Proposed Amendments to Part 25 (Educator Licensure)

P.A. 98-610, effective December 27, 2013, amends Section 21B-45 of the School Code to put in place a new renewal process for holders of professional educator licenses (PELs) beginning July 1, 2014.  The law applies to holders of PELs endorsed in a teaching field or school support personnel or administrative area.  The new law generally provides that holders of teaching or school support personnel endorsements complete 120 clock hours of professional development during their five-year renewal cycle.  Administrators will be held to 100 clock hours of professional development during any renewal cycle, in addition to completion of an Administrators' Academy course for each fiscal year in the cycle.  The total amount of professional development required for any individual educator will vary, depending on the person's assignments and the percentage of time he or she may be working in a particular position.

The proposed amendments substantially modify Section 25.Subpart J, which previously addressed only renewal of teaching certificates.  Under the new system, renewal requirements for any type of endorsement will be set forth in Subpart J, resulting in the repeal of Sections 25.275 (renewal for school support personnel) and 25.313 (renewal for administrators). 

In preparing the draft rulemaking, educator licensure staff worked with a representative group of regional superintendents, as well as representatives of the Illinois Education Association, Illinois Federation of Teachers, Illinois Association of School Boards, Illinois Statewide Management Alliance, Illinois Association of School Business Officials, City of Chicago School District 299, Illinois Career and Technical Administrators, and the Environmental Education Association of Illinois.  This consultation resulted in a number of clarifications and improvements to the proposed rulemaking.

The majority of the proposed changes in Subpart J realign professional development around activities focused on sustained learning, educator performance, standards-based systems, and student growth and school and district improvement (Section 25.805).  Rather than choosing from the myriad options that are included in the current certificate renewal process, starting July 1, 2014, licensees will participate in opportunities designed to improve their skills and knowledge specific to academic rigor, classroom assessments, learning strategies, collaboration and research-based decision-making.  The number of hours of professional development required in a five-year renewal cycle varies by the type of endorsement one holds and the position to which the individual is assigned, and a reminder of those requirements from the law are being included in Section 25.805.

The proposed rules would implement several policy decisions about how the new license renewal system will be implemented.  These decisions primarily focus on the application of credit for activities completed before July 1, 2014, under the current certificate renewal system (Section 25.800); verification of activities completed, including a penalty for those not entered by the licensee within the statutorily required 60-day deadline (Section 25.830); procedures to request an extension beyond June 30 in the year in which the license expires if professional development was unavailable to a licensee (Section 25.835); eligibility requirements for providers of professional development that must be approved by the State Superintendent (Section 25.855); and exemptions from professional development for certain categories of licenses (Section 253.880).  Each of these areas is described separately below.

Credit for Previous Renewal Activities.  Section 25.800 addresses general requirements that apply to renewal under the new law and preserves the credit that a licensee may have accumulated under the certificate renewal system as that individual makes the transition to the new license renewal system.  Staff are proposing that continuing professional development units, or CPDUs, earned on or before June 30, 2014, be converted to clock hours on a one-to-one basis.  The proposed rules also retain the current ratio of 1 to 15 for converting a semester hour of college coursework to clock hours.  Additionally, licensees under the certificate renewal system could count certain activities that they completed as meeting all or a portion of the total professional development required.  The now repealed Section 21-2 of the School Code articulated those requirements; therefore, new Sections 25.800(d) and (e) provide a listing of the allowable activities previously stated in the repealed law.  A licensee may receive credit under the license renewal system for these activities if he or she completes the activities no later than August 31, 2014 (to allow for the conclusion of summer school) and, in situations where a degree or endorsement must be earned, has the degree conferred or endorsement issued no later than December 31, 2014. 

Licensees wishing to claim credit for CPDUs, college coursework or Section 21-2 activities must do so by recording that credit in the Educator License Information System (ELIS) not later than December 31, 2014.  If the credit earned under the certificate renewal system is insufficient to meet the total now required under the license renewal system, the licensee must complete additional professional development that meets the provisions of the new law and Subpart J of the rules.

Verification.  Proposed Section 25.830(a) of the rules references the requirement of Section 21B-45(e) of the School Code that licensees enter certain information about a professional development activity into ELIS within 60 days of completing the activity.  As originally drafted, the proposed rule in Section 25.830(b) also prohibited a licensee from counting credit for a completed activity among the total earned if that activity was not entered into ELIS within the 60-day timeline.  This "penalty" generated a good deal of discussion among members of the external review group, who asked that the repercussion included in the proposal for failing to meet the deadline be removed or that the agency delay the law's implementation.  Given the clear language of the law, however, staff do not believe that the agency should ignore a licensee's failure to meet the 60-day deadline.  The agency instead can delay for a year the implementation of the penalty in an effort to give time for licensees to become acquainted with the new provision.

The rule at Section 25.830(c), regarding the penalty for failing to complete an Administrators' Academy course, is not new but is being moved from Section 25.313, which is being repealed.  Section 25.830(c) requires an administrator to take an additional Administrators' Academy course for each one missed.  Administrators are aware of the penalty, so the proposed rule in Section 25.830(c) should be familiar to them.  The penalty is applicable to certain individuals holding a teacher leader endorsement issued under Section 25.32 of the rules and working in an administrative position for at least 50 percent of the school day, if they fail to complete a an Administrators' Academy course in any fiscal year.

Request for Extension.  Section 25.835 responds to Section 21B-45(e)(9) of the School Code.  This provision allows licensees to request an extension from the SEPLB in order to complete their required professional development beyond September 1 of the year in which the license expires.  The law states that a request for an extension may be made "due to professional development activities being unavailable".  The request can be submitted to the SEPLB between April 1 and June 30 of the year in which the license expires.  The proposed rule sets forth the information that a licensee must include in his or her request and the criteria upon which the SEPLB will base its decision.  In particular, Section 25.835(b) of the proposed rule limits the outstanding professional development to what could be accomplished within one year (i.e., no more than 20 percent of the total required in the five-year renewal cycle and/or one Administrators' Academy course, and no more than a year to complete the activities).  In this way, a licensee will not continue to fall behind in completion of professional development and risk his or her license's lapsing. 

Approval of Providers.  Section 21B-45(g) of the School Code establishes two groups of providers of professional development for renewal purposes: 

Given the impending implementation of the new renewal system on July 1 and the fact that administrative rules will still be in the public comment phase, Section 25.855(a) allows providers approved under the current certificate renewal process to continue to offer credit for professional development activities through December 31, 2014.   Any activities offered for renewal credit on or after July 1, must meet the requirements of Section 21B-45(g) of the School Code, including aligning to one or more of the purposes set forth under Section 25.855(d)(3) of the proposed rules.  Currently approved providers will be encouraged to submit an application for approval under the new license renewal system as soon as possible.  Those meeting the requirements will receive provisional approval, and, once the administrative rules are filed and in effect sometime in the fall, final approval will be issued by the agency. 

Staff anticipate that a number of the currently approved providers may be ineligible to seek approval under the new license renewal system.  Currently, there are more than 8,000 providers; these entities range from statewide organizations that represent educators to individual vendors who offer targeted professional development opportunities.  Under the law, any entity wishing to be approved as a provider must first be an Illinois professional association that represents educators, as defined under Section 25.855(c) of the proposed rules.  Currently approved providers who cannot meet the eligibility criteria for approval may continue to provide renewal credit for professional development activities by working with a provider listed under law and Section 25.855(b). 

Section 25.855 of the proposed rules also establishes the process an entity would use to seek approval to provide professional development for renewal purposes, including application requirements, criteria for review, renewal process and validity period.  Additionally, Section 25.860 lists the reporting and auditing requirements of Sections 21B-45(j) of the School Code for both statutorily approved providers and those receiving approval from the State Board of Education.

Exemptions.  Under Section 21B-45 of the School Code, certain categories of educators who hold a PEL are not required to complete professional development.  These educators include those who are working for less than 50 percent of full-time equivalency in a position requiring the PEL, those who are not working in a position requiring the PEL, those who have exempt status, and those who have both a school support personnel endorsement on the PEL and a professional license in an area related to their endorsement issued by the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation (Sections 25.800(c) and Section 25.880). 

In addition, staff are proposing that an individual who holds a valid and active PEL but who is working solely in a substitute teaching position not be required to participate in professional development in order to renew his or her PEL.  Individuals may be employed as a substitute teacher if they hold a PEL rather than a substitute teaching license. As substitute teachers, often would not have the same access to professional development opportunities through their school districts as would other teachers in the district.  Since a substitute teacher typically is assigned to a different classroom every few days or weeks, it would be difficult, as well, for him or her to identify a particular area of focus for the professional development that meets the criteria of Section 21B-45 of the School Code.  Professional development is not required to renew the substitute teaching license, so staff believe it is fair that substitute teachers who are working on a PEL also be exempted from professional development requirements.

Other changes being proposed in Part 25 include:

Initial Review by State Board of Education: June 2014

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