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Proposed teacher licensing changes rebuild roadblocks

After years of effort, Minnesota’s teacher licensing system was overhauled with the adoption of a four-tiered licensure system in 2017. These reforms brought effective improvements to a badly broken and complex licensing system.

But several legislators have proposed changes to the newly adopted licensing rules in the House (HF 1329) and Senate (SF 1557). One change would eliminate what DFL lawmakers are calling a “loophole” that “allows teachers without formal training to work their way up to a full teaching license” and lowers teaching standards, reported the Pioneer Press.

“We don’t need to lower the standards to make the teaching licensing system easier to navigate,” [Rep. Mary] Kunesh-Podein [DFL-New Brighton] told members of the House education committee Monday. “Nothing in this bill prevents a highly qualified teacher from out-of-state from teaching in Minnesota.”

The proposals do, in fact, void certain criteria that would hinder a highly qualified teacher from becoming licensed and “undermine important gains made in allowing various paths to becoming a teacher in Minnesota,” the Star Tribune Editorial Board said.

…[T]he changes proposed this year would undo nearly all of the alternative paths, leaving the traditional Minnesota teacher training program as the primary option. Under the proposals, criteria that would be nixed include holding a master’s degree in the content area, or fulfilling at least two of the following: field-specific methods training, two years of teaching experience, and passing scores on content and pedagogy exams.

I understand firsthand how these changes would rebuild roadblocks that were appropriately removed in 2017. When I moved back to Minnesota, I had (and still have) a valid teaching license issued by the state of Arizona. I spent two years in a Teacher in Residence program while teaching full time, and I passed all the required content and pedagogy exams. If I wanted to go back into the classroom, the tiered licensing system recognizes my qualifications, despite them being from out-of-state, and would streamline the licensure process.

Minnesota faces a very real and complicated teacher shortage. We need to attract and retain effective educators and help professionals who want to teach enter the classroom. We need to give the newly adopted system an opportunity to work.

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