There’s been a lot of talk recently about teacher licensure in Minnesota, with the Legislature working to streamline the licensing system for experienced out-of-state teachers, and a growing group of such educators suing the Board of Teaching, alleging that its current practices are inconsistent and unreasonable. In news stories, interviews and court documents, the Board has maintained that this just isn’t that big of a deal because 99 percent of out-of-state educators have no trouble receiving a Minnesota teaching license. But this figure is misleading, and fixing our licensure system for out-of-state teachers is actually a much bigger deal than you might think. Here are four reasons why:
1. “Full time license” ≠ Standard professional five-year license
The Board of Teaching has defined a “full time license” as any license that allows an educator to teach full-time for a year or more. But this category does not just include the standard professional five-year license that most out-of-state teachers seek; it also includes “temporary provisional licenses,” “personnel variances” and “nonrenewable licenses,” all of which are second-class licenses the Board tends to issue to out-of-state teachers. What’s more, many out-of-state teacher candidates cannot “upgrade” these temporary and provisional licenses to the professional, five-year licenses they seek unless they first complete redundant coursework and, in some cases, even student teaching.
In short, it is misleading to say that 99 percent of out-of-state candidates receive a “full time license” when the Board includes any teaching license short of a “limited license” (which, by the way, for the purposes of this handout, the Board has restrictively defined as a license granted to those teachers who are missing at least one testing requirement).
2. Teachers deterred by the confusing licensing process are conveniently missing from the numbers
Absent from the 99 percent statistic are the many out-of-state teachers who are so deterred by the cumbersome licensure process that they never officially apply, eventually cancel their application or are left in limbo by licensing agencies indefinitely, without a clear denial or approval. Teachers like the plaintiff in the licensure lawsuit who grew so frustrated with the process of transferring her license to Minnesota, she reconsidered her decision to return to her home state all together!
Counting only those who make it through all the hoops leaves out many educators who would love to teach in Minnesota but are turned off by the labyrinthine application process.
3. The statistic isn’t broken down to separate out-of-state teachers
If you read the document closely, you’ll notice another misleading aspect: the “total licenses issued” and 99 percent statistic apply to all licenses—for teachers trained both in- and out-of-state:
This again dilutes the data—how can we know how well out-of-state teacher candidates are doing in obtaining licensures unless we break them out separately from other candidates?
4. “Applicants” does not necessarily mean “first-time applicants”
The Board’s data could also lead you to believe that, in 2013-14, 39 percent of licenses were granted to teacher applicants moving from another state to teach in Minnesota for the first time, which would mean that nearly four out of 10 of our teachers come—successfully—from other states. But once again, this figure is misleading. According to the MDE’s recent report on Teacher Supply and Demand, only 11 percent of new Minnesota public school teachers come from another state or a private Minnesota school.
The 99 percent and 39 percent numbers include all licenses, not just first-time licenses. So, when a teacher pursues a second (or third, or fourth, etc.) license to add a content area to their repertoire, that additional license is included in the Board’s numbers above. So, for example, if a math teacher originally trained in Iowa teaches in Minnesota for 20 years and then decides to get licensed in communication arts, their license would be included in the 39 percent figure, because that teacher was originally licensed in another state.
The Board’s method of counting, tracking and reporting teaching candidates and licenses makes it nearly impossible to understand how many out-of-state teachers have been granted or denied (or deterred from even applying for) their full professional license.
To help clarify what’s really going on, the Board should track and release the total number of out-of-state teachers who made licensure inquiries and/or began the application for a first-time Minnesota full standard professional, five-year license—and the percent total of those teachers granted the specific licenses they sought.
While the Board’s numbers may sound good, they do not accurately represent the reality for out-of-state teachers hoping to work in Minnesota. For the literally countless out-of-state educators who hope to work in our schools, and the thousands of Minnesota children who would benefit from their experience and passion, it is long past time to streamline our licensure system.