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Minnesota Bill Would Ease Requirements for Rural Teachers

Lawmakers in Minnesota have introduced a bill that would ease teacher licensure requirements to alleviate teacher shortages in rural schools, according to an article by the Owatonna People's Press.

The bipartisan bill would make it easier for out-of-state teachers to earn a Minnesota teaching license by considering a wider range of factors when evaluating applicants, such as supervisor recommendations and student achievement data.

Barry Olson, superintendent of the Blooming Prairie public schools, told the Owatonna People's Press that some subjects in Minnesota have particularly stringent requirements that make it harder for out-of-state teachers to earn a license.

"We're not producing enough teachers to fill our positions. We love Minnesota teachers, but if we don't have candidates applying from here we have to look other places," Olson said. "Our system is very complex so it frustrates these teachers from out of state and denies some, so in order to address this problem we have to make a better system."

More than 44 percent of districts in Minnesota are small and rural, and nearly 25 percent of students in the state attend rural schools, according to the Rural School and Community Trust. The state has one of the highest percentages of rural students with disabilities. A 2015 Minnesota Department of Education report found that rural districts have especially struggled to fill vacant positions in early childhood education, Spanish, and high school chemistry. Rural districts, more than any other type of district, reported to the state Department of Education that teacher licensing standards and teacher testing requirements present a large barrier to hiring effective teachers.

Other states have looked at providing more flexibility for teacher licensure requirements. Last year, a bipartisan taskforce of Wisconsin lawmakers recommended that the state relax requirements to allow individuals "who have extensive experience  or competency in a subject area to receive a license without obtaining a traditional education degree."

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