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Minn. Alternative-Certification Bill Nears Approval

Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton is close to approving a bill that would permit participants in new alternative routes to teach on limited two-year licenses without going through traditional preparation programs.

Under the terms of the bill, districts or charter schools, in combination with a nonprofit-, university- or college-based board-approved teacher-preparation program, would be permitted to open these routes.There are a few caveats in the bill, such as a requirement that participants have 200 hours of intensive preparation before entering the classroom. Teachers would also have to be evaluated by the district or charter school to be recommended for a standard license.

The state's failure to approve alternative routes has been cited as one of the reasons it didn't win a cut of funds under the federal Race to the Top money, which encouraged states to open up alternative teaching routes.

Not surprisingly, critics of the bill have charged that it would water down teaching standards and facilitate the placement of untrained teachers in challenging school environments. And the legislation is pretty skeletal, so it is hard to pinpoint exactly what supporters want to accomplish with it: To improve selections at districts? Get more teachers in specific subjects? Put a squeeze on teacher ed. programs?

Education Minnesota President Tom Dooher has been critical of the bill in news reports, noting that there are teachers who are already certified (and that the union presumably represents) who don't have teaching positions.

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