Requirements for teaching at tech schools and community colleges are lower than for teaching at Kansas high schools in many fields.
To just teach high school biology, K-State requires 39 credit hours, K.U. requires 32, Fort Hays requires 38, Baker requires 34 and ESU requires 44. But you can teach at community colleges and tech schools with just 24 credit hours. How did this upside-down credentialing occur? Many people were asleep at the wheel.
A decade ago, Kansas academics met in "Core Competency" meetings and recommended that instructors of college courses have a minimum of a masters degree with 24 credit hours at the masters level in the field. When the regents university presidents met, only the presidents of Emporia State and Wichita State supported that solid standard. The rest capitulated and dropped to a masters with 18 hours in the field being taught. Still, that was a whole degree above the current requirement. How did the requirement get dropped a full degree?
In June of 2005, during discussions of concurrent enrollment, where high school students take courses for college credit, the Board of Regents finally settled for a bachelors degree with 24 hours in the field being taught. No one mentioned that this requirement was often less, sometimes nearly half of what is required of most high school teachers! When this was approved for teachers of concurrent enrollment courses, it likewise applied to tertiary level faculty. Apparently, nobody at that time realized they had lowered the requirements for college teaching below requirements for high school teachers in many fields.
This did not really affect the regents four-year universities because in practice, they require the terminal degree in the academic field, usually a Ph.D. or Ed.D. But the community colleges offering outreach courses and the tech schools who were allowed to expand beyond their technical school jurisdiction, began to utilize this low standard.
Kansas universities also use faculty peer review to carefully examine new professors’ teaching ability and judge new hires on their: 1) active involvement in the profession, 2) ability to keep up on new developments, and 3) ability to conduct research. Many Kansas community colleges follow a similar evaluation-by-colleagues to maintain high quality teachers.
But at some community colleges and tech schools, outreach faculty with minimal credentials are hired by administrators without any faculty review. And no faculty are hotter about this new low bar than the permanent community college faculty who have worked hard to establish a good on-campus reputation. These cheap hires may not only lack the credit hours of coursework to credibly teach university level coursework, but have no active involvement in the academic community or understand modern research developments.
This October 19, representatives from the Kansas academic communities will meet at Kansas State University to discuss "Core Competencies." The intent of some parties is to force more cheap courses to be accepted for transfer to university programs—more "seamless articulation" where weak courses taught by weak teachers must be accepted by all Kansas universities.
But this is the time for Kansas to restore academic integrity. Teaching at the community college or tech school level should require more, not less, knowledge than teaching high school courses. It is time to restore the requirement of masters-with-24-credit-hours at masters level in the field taught.
Kansas needs to salvage its reputation for strong teachers, strong courses and strong degrees.