Proceed with caution on alternative teacher licensing


The state legislature is taking action on alternative teacher licensing this session. The proposed bills have various conditions and requirements, some of which have potential benefits while others could create loopholes for unqualified teachers to enter the classroom.

Recently Education Minnesota President Tom Dooher said he sees value in alternative licensure under restricted circumstances, which include mid-career professionals serving in high needs areas of their expertise.

Science teachers writing guest columns for Minnesota 2020 have voiced a need for fast track licensure in fields like the hard sciences, especially in rural schools. However, it’s important that any new legislation not put unqualified teachers in our children’s schools, bump existing teachers out of the classroom, or limit opportunities for those with a traditional license.

Dooher listed additional stipulations and limitations he believes are important to ensure and sustain high teaching standards. Representative Mindy Greiling (DFL-Roseville) added that legislation include pre-training connected to higher education, teacher mentorship, and that new teachers commit to working toward an education degree.

In other words, just because someone knows the content doesn’t mean he or she can teach. The state’s teacher training programs do an excellent job ensuring new teachers have background knowledge in child behavior, effective classroom management, fair discipline practices and a hosts of other pedagogical skills.

Whether it’s an in-class mentor or some other method, there must be a professional with these skills in a class.

Teachers going through traditional licensing procedures are making long-term commitments to education, and we want to ensure that those taking an alternative route to the classroom make the same long-term pledge. Minnesota cannot afford to invest in these types of alternative programs if we’re not going to reap benefits that move the state’s education system forward, especially given the current education funding limitations.

While alternative teacher licensing may be beneficial in limited circumstances, policymakers must bear in mind the potential harmful outcomes that may result without strong policy requirements and specifications that ensure teacher quality, not just mastery of content.