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State's new teacher licensing board up and running, but challenges persist

Alex Liuzzi, executive director of the Professional Educator and Licensing Board, updates the House Education Finance Division about teacher demographics during its morning meeting Jan. 15. Photo by Paul Battaglia

The path to becoming a teacher in Minnesota looks different today than it did a few years ago.

The system that oversaw and implemented teacher licensing for the state was overhauled as the result of 2017 legislation. Effective last January, the responsibilities once carried out by the Department of Education Licensing Division were shifted to a newly formed Minnesota Professional Educator Licensing and Standards Board.

During the House Education Finance Division’s first meeting of the 2019 session, Tuesday, Alex Liuzzi, executive director of the board highlighted 2018 teacher licensing data and how it is collected.

“Our analytics team is staffed by zero staff members, so what we do is we pull information from a SNAP Table and then a star report,” he said. “We really get that data as a whole dump of information and then try to figure out how to pull pieces of it together and it’s not always well situated, and so my message today is this is messy.”

Currently the unduplicated number of licensed teachers in Minnesota is 106,337, but Liuzzi notes there are far fewer teachers currently working with students.

“One thing that we want to emphasize when we talk about a shortage of teachers is the difference between the amount of licensed teachers that we have in the state — the people that have licenses that have not expired — versus active teachers, teachers that actually have an assignment in the classroom,” he explained. “So there’s a difference of about 40,000 people that have a license in the state but are not in the classroom.”


One year in

The teacher licensing overhaul was an effort to simplify the process and address Minnesota’s teacher shortage. The new four-tiered licensure system provides more pathways to licensure and is intended to open opportunities for individuals of varying levels of education, preparation and professional experience.

The idea being that if an individual has years of experience as a contractor, for example, but doesn’t have a degree or advanced degree, he or she may qualify to teach a shop class – provided a variety of other stipulations and requirements are met.

Data shows that between July 1, 2018 and Jan. 4, 2019 the new system has licensed nearly 3,000 teachers within Tiers 1 and 2, the more introductory levels. Currently, there are 5,238 individuals that have special permissions, or limited and provisional licenses.

“Individuals of color and American Indian teachers are much more represented in special permissions, Tier 1 and Tier 2 license as well. That speaks to those being a good way to get individuals of color into the classroom and then move them up tiers,” Liuzzi said.


Looking ahead

In a memo delivered to the division, Board Chair Brian Rappe, Vice Chair Heidi Hahn and Liuzzi outline the board’s accomplishments, setbacks and goals for the coming year.

Since going into effect, the board adopted governing rules and became responsible for the following:

  • adopting rules to license public school teachers;
  • creating a legislative report on special education licensure;
  • supporting alternative and transfer pathways to teacher preparation; and
  • preparing for the biennial Teacher Supply and Demand Report.

However, there is still much to be done in 2019, including increasing support for educators, strengthening stakeholder relations and incorporating educators not often included in policy conversions. The board is also in the process of upgrading its technology to accept online, rather than paper applications, as is currently being done. Board members also noted a need for additional funding for mentorships and teacher prep programs, and emphasized a need for statute changes.

“A major task of the board in 2018 was to implement tiered licensure and adopt rules that define terms and the processes for this licensure,” members wrote. “Through this rigorous and stakeholder-intensive rulemaking process, the board learned the law created many unintended consequences, PELSB is eager to work with legislators to find common-sense changes to clarify the statute and ensure districts, educators, and students are not harmed during the implementation of the law.”

Liuzzi said the board plans to release a teacher supply report in February that will provide more detailed information on the current teacher shortage in Minnesota.


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