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Alternative licensure path sought

Published (1/14/2011)
By Kris Berggren
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The House Education Reform Committee picked up the conversation about alternative routes to teacher licensure where lawmakers left off last year.

Rep. Carlos Mariani (DFL-St. Paul) sponsors HF3, which would establish such an alternative by allowing qualified candidates, such as Teach for America members, in programs approved by the Board of Teaching, a two-year provisional license as a path to acquiring a standard teaching license. About 90 Teach for America members currently work in Minnesota schools under a renewable one-year licensure waiver.

No action was taken at the committee’s Jan. 13 meeting. The bill has no Senate companion.

Candidates would be the teacher of record in a classroom, would have to meet other criteria: such as having a bachelor’s degree and a 3.0 grade point average; passing a basic skills tests; and participating in at least 200 hours of instruction.

A school district or charter school would sponsor the program in agreement with its board and the local teachers’ representative, or in the case of a charter, its licensed staff, under one of three conditions:

• the inability to recruit and hire a qualified candidate for a teaching position;

• a determination that teaching staff should more adequately reflect students’ ethnic or cultural diversity; or

• a need to reduce the achievement gap.

Daniel Sellers, executive director of Teach for America Twin Cities, said that recent studies in North Carolina and Tennessee offer strong evidence that Teach for America members are more effective than other new teachers and even experienced teachers in closing the achievement gap in classrooms where they work.

Mariani said he sponsors the bill not as a criticism of teachers in general, but because it’s a way to meet teacher shortage needs in some subjects and districts.

“And frankly our local school districts are in the best position to evaluate that. We either trust our local districts or we don’t trust them,” Mariani said.

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