Ending a tiered teacher licensure pathway that’s working is a mistake

A teacher’s years of experience and their school principal’s recommendation should offer a path

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As I write this, 10 Minnesota legislators from the House and Senate are working to reconcile the education omnibus bill (HF2497/SF2684). If the Minnesota House gets its wish, a teacher licensure pathway that helps address the current teacher shortage could be gone forever. The licensure pathway that is under attack prioritizes a teacher’s years of experience and their school principal’s recommendation, in place of completing a state-approved teacher preparation program.

Ending this pathway is a mistake.

Proponents of this change argue that the licensing agency — Minnesota Professional Educator Licensing and Standards Board (PELSB) — already offers the licensure via a portfolio pathway that Tier 2 teachers can use to move up the ladder into a Tier 3 license. While this is true on paper, the portfolio pathway is difficult to use because the process is unclear, and PELSB does not have enough personnel or volunteers to review the materials that applicants submit. While PELSB is currently asking for funding and legislative solutions to address these challenges with the portfolio, until it is able to resolve these issues, the pathway that is actually working should remain.

Other supporters of eliminating the experience pathway have argued that traditional teacher preparation programs create more qualified and prepared teachers, but there’s simply no evidence to demonstrate this. Just like there’s no evidence that teachers pursuing the classroom experience pathway, Tier 2 licensed teachers, are bound to be low performers. 

I am an immigrant from Colombia. I hold two graduate degrees, and I am also a Tier 2 licensed teacher with more than a decade of teaching experience. As seen on my evaluations, I excel at my profession, but I have a Tier 2 license because our teacher licensure system in Minnesota is flawed and is still reeling after decades of malfunctioning. The system has been described as “broken.”

One of the steps taken by the Legislature in 2017 to change that reality was to eliminate teacher licensure barriers for non-traditional teaching candidates, candidates coming from out of state, and candidates who identify as members of minority communities.

The changes implemented by the Legislature are already working to recruit more teachers and to diversify the profession, and yet, the language in the House omnibus bill insists on bringing us back to a system that didn’t work. 

The pathways to teacher licensure should not be harder, and we should not be trying to fix something that is not broken. We have many more critical issues in public education to focus on. I hope legislators will support more teachers like me in their desire to educate our youth. 

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Veronica Castellanos-Vasquez
Veronica Castellanos-Vasquez

Veronica Castellanos-Vasquez is a kindergarten teacher in Edina Public Schools and a teacher leader at Educators for Excellence-Minnesota.