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Streamlining Teacher Certification Is Harder Than It Might Seem

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In June, Minnesota passed a budget law that required the State Board of Teaching to clarify and streamline rules that would help out-of-state teachers obtain certification in the state.

New reports out of the Gopher State show that the state board's efforts to do as directed have been unconvincing.

In a hearing with Minnesota lawmakers last week, the board's executive director, Erin Doan, said the board has been making progress, according to the Twin Cities Pioneer Press.

"Yes, I believe there are issues," Doan said. "Yes, I believe it is our responsibility to clean them up. I do not believe we have been standing still since 2011."

Others see things differently.

"I have not found one streamlined procedure that helps out-of-state teachers get a license," Rhyddid Watkins, an attorney, told the Press. Watkins is one of the legal representatives for a group of teachers who are suing the board over allegations that out-of-state certification is too mired in bureaucracy. Those teachers say the process is an impediment in recruiting more teachers of color and special education teachers to Minnesota.

Complaints about the state's certification process have percolated for years. In 2011, alternative-certification supporters successfully lobbied the legislature to require that the board streamline the licensure process for teachers trained in other states. Last June's budget deal was meant to be an additional prod, and gives the board until January to establish clear rules for accepting out-of-state candidates from a "similar content field" and "similar licensure area."

Other states are further along in their efforts to give licenses to out-of-state teachers.

"The stars have lined up in that regard," said Phillip S. Rogers, executive director of the National Association of State Directors of Teacher Education and Certification, in an interview. "We've seen more states than ever that consider themselves full reciprocity states. Ten years ago you would never have states that say that."

While teachers still have to fill out applications and submit to background checks under such state reciprocity agreements, they may avoid having to take new tests. The increased mobility may be the kind of action that can ease teacher shortages in some states.

"I think a lot of states are coming to the point where they're realizing a point or two on a test score doesn't tell you much about a teacher," Rogers said.

Image: Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton meets with members of the media last May at the Governor's Mansion in St. Paul, Minn. Dayton signed a new budget into law the following month. Credit: Jim Mone/AP-File


More on Minnesota's certification struggles:


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