The following is a guest blog post from an out-of-state teacher hoping to move back to her home state of Minnesota. She chose to share her story anonymously:
I’m a Minnesota native with a passion for teaching. After ten years living and teaching in another state, I knew I wanted my son to know his grandparents and to grow up playing with his cousins. I decided to transfer my licenses and further my career in my home state. The process awaiting me has been confusing at best, with no logical means for assessing my training, experience or skills in the classroom.
First, some background: I hold licenses in both special education and general education. I also completed a specialized year-long training that certified me to be a reading intervention teacher for our neediest students and am certified to work with English language learners.
I am deeply committed to educational equity. Teaching in diverse, high-poverty schools, I know the challenges students face. I also know all they’re capable of achieving and have built the skills to help them succeed. I know Minnesota needs teachers with these skills, and I want to continue that career in my home state.
I started the process of transferring my license to Minnesota about a year ago, and my experience has been arduous and the very antithesis of streamlined.
I’ve exchanged dozens of emails with Department of Education staff, sent in transcripts and other materials (in some cases more than once), passed the Minnesota Teacher Licensure Examinations with high scores, dug up syllabi from courses I took ten years ago and physically highlighted details on my transcript that the Board of Teaching overlooked.
Again and again, MDE and the BoT have questioned my competence, yet when I ask them to dig deeper, they reverse course and acknowledge that I have in fact met the qualifications outlined. I have only succeeded in my various appeals because of my insistence and perseverance.
A year into this process, MDE has still only granted me a temporary and conditional licensure in special education, and no license at all in general education, despite the fact that I hold full licensure—in a well-reputed state—that I earned from accredited academic institutions.
I am still engaged in back and forth conversations with MDE, working tirelessly for Minnesota to honor every bit of education I've earned, each accomplishment I’ve had in the classroom and the countless students I’ve helped. And sadly that’s why I feel the need to remain anonymous. I don’t want my criticism of Minnesota’s licensure process for out-of-state teachers to impact my ongoing application and appeals to transfer my licenses.
Of course I’m frustrated by my experience. But what’s more, I’m worried that Minnesota is losing highly qualified educators who are turned away by the drawn-out and arbitrary process that de-values the qualifications of teachers prepared out of state.
Some say that the licensure process for out-of-state teachers is difficult because Minnesota has unapologetically high standards. I say: Fantastic. Minnesota certainly needs highly qualified educators to address some of the largest race-based achievement gaps in the nation.
But Minnesota also needs to have high standards for the process out-of-state teachers face. This process must be streamlined and rational. It’s not streamlined when it takes over a year for an experienced educator to gain a teaching license. It’s not rational for Minnesota to tell a ten-year-plus veteran teacher to take more coursework.
Minnesota can’t afford to lose out on great teachers. Not when the state continues to have stubborn race-based achievement gaps, teacher shortages in high-needs areas like special education and ELL (remember: I can teach both) and, as a new report from MDE shows, fewer and fewer people earning licenses from Minnesota teacher preparation programs.
Please, please, please sign this letter to encourage Minnesota to build a better process for out-of-state licensure. It’s time to open the door to teachers like me.