Illinois Federation of Teachers Heartland Faculty question new faculty qualifications
The full-time and part-time unions at Heartland Community College became aware of a proposal being considered by accreditation (HLC) to allow dual credit teachers to substitute a master’s degree for “equivalent experience” in meeting minimum qualifications to teach our courses. This will have a tremendous impact on the job security of qualified community college instructors (especially part time) who are currently asked to teach dual credit courses at the high schools when the high school does not have a teacher with a master's degree. Additionally, as more and more students arrive to Heartland having already completed all of their general education courses at their high schools, we are having a harder and harder time distributing enough courses to keep all current full-time faculty employed. This problem will explode once all high school teachers are allowed to teach our courses rather than just those with a master's degree.
TO WHOM IT MAY CONCERN:
We are writing on behalf of the Heartland Faculty Association and the Heartland Adjunct Faculty Association, representing a combined total of 240 dedicated faculty members at Heartland Community College (Normal, Illinois). Our faculty organizations recently held an informal vote during our collective meeting, and the outcome was unanimous among participating members. We are composing this letter to voice our resolute objection to the proposed policy modificationsconcerning faculty qualifications for dual credit courses that is currently being considered by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC).
Our dedication to nurturing academic excellence, elevating student achievement, and upholding educational benchmarks underscores our apprehensions regarding these proposed revisions. While we recognize the importance of broadening the reach of dual credit initiatives, particularly in underserved regions, we are convinced that the proposed adjustments could unintentionally jeopardize the quality of education our students receive, erode the core mission of dual credit programs, which is to ensure that students are well-prepared for the rigorous demands of college-level coursework, and exacerbate employment stability concerns faced by community college faculty members, especially part-time faculty who are already grappling with precarious work situations and limited job security.
We advocate for an alternative approach that addresses the root issues while upholding the quality of instruction:
1. Increase Partnerships with Local Community Colleges to Use their Already Qualified Instructors: To promptly address the staffing challenges faced by underserved schools, we propose that high schools maximize their collaboration with local community colleges. High schools can tap into the pool of already qualified community college instructors within their own community college boundaries. By doing so, they can ensure that students receive quality dual credit education from experienced faculty members who are readily available, thus efficiently resolving the immediate staffing gaps while maintaining the integrity of dual credit programs.
2. Increase Funding for Underserved Schools. We firmly believe that the key to attracting and retaining qualified faculty members in underserved schools lies in increased funding. Adequate funding would enable these institutions to offer competitive teacher salaries, incentivizing more qualified teachers to join their ranks—funds that can also be directed towards hiring fully qualified part-time faculty from community colleges to meet the dual credit needs of these high schools.
3. ProvideSupport and Resources for Teacher Development. Underserved schools should receive support, release time, and funding to assist their teachers in obtaining necessary qualifications. Encouraging professional development is essential in helping teachers meet the academic standards required to teach college-level courses.
4. Maintain Faculty Qualification Standards. We strongly oppose lowering the faculty qualification standards for dual credit teachers. It is imperative to maintain consistent academic criteria for dual credit teachers, mirroring the standards upheld for college faculty. This uniformity guarantees that students are sufficiently equipped to successfully navigate the demands of college-level coursework, which is one of the touted benefits of dual credit programs.
5. Minimize Negative Impacts on Community College Faculty. The proposed changes could significantly impact faculty at community colleges. The increased demand for dual credit courses can create imbalances in course loads, leading to potential job losses among community college faculty.
6. Ensure Quality of Instruction. We are concerned that lowering teacher qualifications may lead to a decline in the quality of instruction in dual credit programs. Quality education is paramount to our students’ success, and we believe that maintaining high standards is essential for their future academic endeavors.
7. Address Evaluation Challenges. Additionally, we wish to highlight that local high schools and legislation currently restrict our ability to evaluate dual credit teachers effectively. We are only permitted to evaluate their adherence to approved materials and syllabi, but we lack the authority to assess their teaching capabilities using the same criteria we apply to our own faculty. The proposed changes could exacerbate this issue, potentially jeopardizing the quality of instruction.
In closing, we appreciate the need for thoughtful consideration of dual credit policies to better serve underserved areas. However, we firmly believe that lowering faculty qualification standards is not the solution. Instead, we propose increased funding, faculty development support, and the preservation of rigorous faculty qualification standards to ensure the continued success of dual credit programs.
We kindly request that you consider our concerns and engage in a constructive dialogue with community college faculty to explore alternative approaches that align with our shared goal of providing high-quality education to our students.
Thank you for your attention to this matter.
Sharon Migotsky, President Ashli Anda, President
Heartland Faculty Association Heartland Adjunct Faculty Association
Local 6038 IFT-AFT, AFL-CIO Local 6077 IFT-AFT, AFL-CIO