October 31, 2018

Can You Teach in MN? With Tiered Licensure, the Answer Should Now Be Clear

By Josh Crosson

Minnesota’s teacher licensure system used to be broken, confusing, and especially unwelcoming to out-of-state educators. That is, until a new, straightforward four-tiered licensure system replaced it. But how does this new system actually work for teachers and the school leaders seeking to hire them? This week, final rules to implement the new licensure framework went into effect. Here’s what educators need to know.

TIERED LICENSURE BASICS

First, the Professional Educator Licensing and Standards Board, or PELSB, has replaced the old Board of Teaching and the licensing division at the Minnesota Department of Education. Now, PELSB approves licenses, sets rules, and oversees teacher preparation, so this is an acronym worth remembering.

The idea behind the four tiers of the new teacher licensure system is that a teacher (or hiring school district) should be able to look at the requirements and, right away, know whether they qualify for a Minnesota license. PELSB’s role is to help define unclear terms in the law and review teachers’ applications, making sure everything checks out. No more jumping through unnecessary hoops, consulting with higher education institutions, or getting subjective replies from state licensure staff.

In other words, tiered licensure should now be objective and clear, removing the guesswork and red tape both for Minnesota teachers and those seeking to hire them (we hope). So what does this look like in practice?

TIER 1

Essentially replacing the former “community expert” permissions, Tier 1 licenses allow teachers to bring real-world experiences for niche classes such as Intro to Greek or Rhythmic Dance. Tier 1 educators can also step in to fill shortage areas and hard-to-staff positions. Previously, the Board of Teaching approved or denied community experts subjectively, with no clear standard for approval. Now, if a candidate meets certain requirements, and a school demonstrates a need, the path to licensure is clear.

Tier 1 Requirements

Schools:

  • Must apply for the Tier 1 license on behalf of the teacher candidate.
  • Must affirm the candidate has the necessary skills and knowledge.
  • Must complete a background check for all candidates.
  • Must have a mentorship and induction program in place to support the new teacher.
  • Must demonstrate that they were unable to hire an “acceptable” candidate with a Tier 3 or 4 license, based on a specific set of criteria that PELSB has developed.

Educators:

  • Must hold:
    • a bachelor’s degree; or
    • if teaching in career and technical education:
      • an associate’s degree;
      • a professional credential; or
      • five years of work experience in the content area.
  • Must participate in district mentorship and induction programs and teacher evaluations.
Tier 1 Terms and Renewals

A Tier 1 license is good for one year with up to three renewals, which require a few more steps, like taking the content exam required for professionally licensed teachers. A school can also go beyond three renewals by demonstrating that it needs a Tier 1 teacher longer (e.g., there’s a shortage of teachers). This license is limited to the employing school district; a teacher can’t transfer a Tier 1 license to another district.

TIER 2

Under Minnesota’s old licensure system, educators working towards professional licensure (including those enrolled in alternative and nonconventional preparation programs), as well as educators seeking to teach outside of their content area or scope, faced a dizzying array of options. The path to these options—including “personnel variances,” “initial licenses,” “temporary professional licenses,” and “limited licenses”—was opaque, with the Board of Teaching applying standards inconsistently. Now, under tiered licensure, these teachers are eligible for a Tier 2 license, which has crystal clear eligibility requirements.

Tier 2 Requirements

Schools:

  • Must apply for the license with the teacher candidate.

Educators:

  • Must hold:
    • a bachelor’s degree; or
    • if teaching in career and technical education:
      • an associate’s degree;
      • a professional credential; or
      • five years of work experience in the content area.
  • Must satisfy one of the following:
    • be enrolled in a Minnesota teacher preparation program;
    • hold a master’s degree in the content area; or
    • fulfill at least two of the following:
      • have eight upper-division credits in the content area;
      • completed field-specific methods training;
      • have two years of teaching experience in the content area;
      • receive passing scores on content and pedagogy exams; or
      • completed a state-approved teacher preparation program.
  • Must participate in district mentorship and induction programs and participate in teacher evaluations.
Tier 2 Terms and Renewals

A Tier 2 license is good for two years with up to three renewals. Similar to Tier 1 licenses, Tier 2 licenses are limited to the employing school district.

TIER 3

Under the old system, out-of-state and alternatively certified educators had to navigate a confusing and inconsistent maze to earn their professional teacher license, which was largely reserved for educators traditionally trained in Minnesota. This byzantine system failed to honor teachers’ experience, and created needless stress for them, their schools, and their students, ultimately pushing countless educators out of the classroom. Under the new tiered system, the Tier 3 license requirements should remove this headache for out-of-state and alternatively certified educators. Teachers with demonstrated classroom experience have a path to a Tier 3 license, a standard, professional license that can be renewed indefinitely.

Tier 3 Requirements

Educators:

  • Can apply for this license directly.
  • Must hold:
    • a bachelor’s degree; or
    • if teaching in career and technical education:
      • an associate’s degree;
      • a professional credential; or
      • five years of work experience in the content area.
  • Must receive passing scores on content and pedagogy exams.
  • Must participate in district mentorship and induction programs and in teacher evaluations.
  • Must fulfill at least one of the following:
    • completed a Minnesota teacher preparation program;
    • completed a state-approved teacher preparation program with two years of field-specific experience or field-specific student teaching;
    • have a portfolio in a licensure field;
    • hold an out-of-state license with at least two years of teaching experience; or
    • completed three years of teaching experience in Tier 2 with a successful summative evaluation. 
Tier 3 Terms and Renewals

A Tier 3 license is valid for three years and can be renewed indefinitely. It can also be transferred across schools and districts.

TIER 4

Finally, the Tier 4 license is available to especially seasoned educators. By considering teachers’ training, experience, and effectiveness, and decreasing the renewal requirements for educators who have reached this stage in their career, Tier 4 licenses should elevate the teaching profession and honor educators’ hard work. 

Tier 4 Requirements

Educators:

  • Can apply for this license directly.
  • Must hold a Tier 3 license (Note: Teachers currently holding a standard professional license from the old licensure system will be grandfathered into a Tier 4 license).
  • Must receive passing scores on all exams.
  • Must have three years of teaching experience in Minnesota.
  • Must have not been placed on an improvement plan after their most recent summative teacher evaluation.
  • Must have completed a state-approved teacher preparation program.
Tier 4 Terms and Renewals

A Tier 4 license lasts for five years and can be renewed indefinitely. Like a Tier 3 license, it can be transferred across schools and districts.

All in all, the new tiered licensure system should remove barriers for passionate, experienced educators who are eager to bring their talents to the Minnesota classrooms that need them. If you have questions or experience barriers as you seek licensure—whether for yourself or for a teacher candidate you hope to hire for your students—please let me know.