Alternative teacher pathway licensure bills advance

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Two bills that would create alternative pathways to teacher licensure were approved by the House Education Reform Committee.

Rep. Pat Garofalo (R-Farmington) sponsors HF63, while Rep. Carlos Mariani (DFL-St. Paul) sponsors HF3. Although similar, the bills have two key differences, Garofalo said. His bill would not require, as Mariani’s does, that a Board of Teaching-approved preparation program be linked with a higher education institution’s education program. Garofalo’s bill would facilitate reciprocity for certain teachers trained out of state to become licensed in Minnesota.

Awaiting action by the House Education Finance Committee, both bills would make it easier for schools to employ teachers without traditional education training who meet other criteria, such as Teach for America members. For example, they would participate in at least 200 hours of training and participate in ongoing professional development and supervision. They would be granted a two-year limited-term license in preparation for acquiring a standard license, and would be the teacher of record in the classroom.

Rep. Kory Kath (DFL-Owatonna) successfully amended HF3 by adding a requirement that as of Aug. 1, 2012, all teacher preparation programs, whether traditional or alternative, include a teacher assessment that elicits evidence of student achievement and content understanding, plus classroom management and planning skills. Minnesota teacher evaluators in a pilot program are now being trained in Teacher Performance Assessment matching those requirements, said Karen Balmer, the board’s executive director, who hopes for a full launch in spring of 2012, adding that there would be a cost to scaling it statewide.

Despite bipartisan support for that goal, some members preferred to defer to the preference of Committee Chairwoman Rep. Sondra Erickson (R-Princeton) to fully discuss the Teacher Performance Assessment in the future.

“There’s no question I support this,” Erickson said. “I just think we need to be more thoughtful about progressing in the direction of adding this yet.”

The committee voted down the same amendment offered by Kath to HF63.

“While I do not object to the language, I do want to exercise my defense of the committee chair in controlling her process,” Garofalo said.