In June, 2014 I made two moves in my professional life almost simultaneously: I retired as a high school teacher, and I renewed my K-12 Illinois teaching license. Although that may seem paradoxical, I was preserving my options in case an opportunity arose that might require a teaching license. Renewing a teaching license in Illinois is a fairly simple process that involves filing claims related to professional development activities, and I had plenty of those.
Then in January, 2015, an official-looking envelope arrived from the Illinois State Board of Education. Its contents informed me that I had been selected for an audit of the professional development activities claimed in my K-12 license renewal application. That’s right. Out of the tens of thousands of Illinois teachers actively involved in day-to-day contact with K-12 students, they chose to audit a college teacher with no K-12 affiliation.
Now here’s the part where I would like a do-over. During my last few years as a high school teacher, the time covered by my previous license, our on-site professional development was somewhere between comical and counter-productive. I considered it a point of honor that when I applied for license renewal, I did not claim those on-site professional development activities that I found so pointless. Instead, I used the activities I found more valuable—publications, conference presentations, and online activities. Well, that point of honor jumped up and bit me on the butt in the audit process.
For audit purposes, on-site activities are verifiable by a piece of paper, known in Illinois as a CPDU form, signed by an administrator. The off-site and publishing activities that I claimed required far more extensive documentation. I needed help from people at the Illinois Association of Teachers of English, The National Council of Teachers of English, and three different publishers in order to round up the documentation to complete the audit. (Thanks to everyone who helped. I literally could not have done this without you.)
So, a few reams of paper and a couple of print cartridges later, I submitted the documentation back in February. I was then informed that I would hear the results of the audit by late May or early June. Today—June 27—I received official notification from the Illinois State Board of Education that my audit “was completed successfully.”
So, what have we learned?
1. If you’re an Illinois teacher, hang on to your CPDU forms. Even if the activities they certify have questionable value, the form itself has value if you’re selected for an audit.
2. Save your righteousness for things that matter. If the bureaucratic game regards silliness and productivity as identical, do things simply and move on. Spend your energy more wisely than I did.
3. Growing professionally is important, and there are many ways to accomplish it. Keep learning for your students, your profession, and yourself, even if the educational bureaucracy doesn’t recognize or value it.
4. Share your mistakes so that others can learn and benefit from them!