May 6, 2020

Teacher Licensure During COVID-19: Barriers to Student Teaching, Renewals, and More

By Krista Kaput

The COVID-19 crisis has caused ripple effects across the education system, raising significant questions and challenges for the teacher licensure process. With school buildings closed, student teaching and assessments for new teachers were interrupted. And many current teachers are facing uncertainty around whether they will be able to renew their licenses on time.

The Professional Educator Licensing and Standards Board (PELSB) has been working to respond and provide flexibility where possible. However, there are specific things that PELSB cannot dolike extend the timeline of licensure renewals—and that require legislative action. In the midst of all this, PELSB is moving forward with two sets of regulations that will determine the future of teacher preparation in Minnesota.

Legislative Action Needed on Licensure Renewals 

According to PELSB, the licenses of over 17,800 active classroom teachers—nearly 25% of Minnesota’s teacher workforce—are set to expire on June 30, 2020.

According to PELSB, the licenses of over 17,800 active classroom teachers—nearly 25% of Minnesota’s teacher workforce—are set to expire on June 30, 2020. Closures throughout Minnesota make fulfilling licensure renewal requirements, from assessments to cultural competency training, difficult if not impossible. Unless legislators grant PELSB the authority to extend the deadline for renewal requirements, we could see catastrophic results. 

Legislators are currently considering bills to issue one-year licenses to applicants unable to complete licensure exams and give current teachers a six-month extension to renew their 2020-21 licenses. Another proposal would simply waive renewal requirements. 

While both the House and Senate are advancing similar language, these provisions are part of larger COVID-19 education bills—so legislators must first agree on more contentious issues. These teacher licensure provisions are too critical to get bogged down. And the Legislature must pass them to ensure teacher’s licenses aren’t at risk. Educators should not have to wait and wonder if they will be able to teach next year. 

TELL LEGISLATORS TO ACT

Modified Student Teaching and edTPA Requirements

Some teacher licensure flexibilities don’t require legislative action, and PELSB has already stepped in to amend several rules and requirements. In response to requests from teacher preparation programs, PELSB made a number of temporary exceptions for student teaching and the teacher performance assessment. 

Student Teaching 

State regulations require that student teachers complete 12 weeks of full-time, face-to-face student teaching. Because COVID-19 interfered with many student teaching assignments, PELSB approved waivers with certain conditions. For spring 2020, teachers candidates who have completed any of the following are eligible for a license: 

  • 10 weeks or more of face-to-face-student teaching; 
  • 6-9 weeks of face-to-face student teaching plus 1-4 weeks through distance learning; or 
  • 6-9 weeks of face-to-face student teaching plus “replacement experiences or verification of preparedness.” This gives a lot of discretion to teacher preparation programs while setting a floor of at least six weeks in the classroom.

For teacher candidates who had five or fewer weeks of face-to-face student teaching, PELSB will review and approve variances on a case-by-case basis.

The Teacher Performance Assessment (edTPA)

Rather than issuing a blanket waiver, PELSB will allow candidates to complete “a locally-determined, summative teacher performance assessment” instead of the edTPA.

Aspiring teachers must complete the edTPA, a national, performance-based assessment, before receiving their license. This year, several teacher preparation providers asked for an edTPA waiver, indicating that it would be a challenge for many candidates to complete the test under these new circumstances. Rather than issuing a blanket waiver, PELSB will allow candidates to complete “a locally-determined, summative teacher performance assessment” instead of the edTPA. The assessment must include components of planning, instruction, and assessment. And the teacher preparation provider has to give candidates feedback on each component. 

Rulemaking on Teacher Prep 

Prior to COVID-19, PELSB was working on two sets of rulemaking that will have a significant impact on the future of teacher preparation. Work on these rules has continued over the past few weeks. 

Program Approval Process

PELSB oversees the approval process for teacher preparation programs, credentials for teacher educators, requirements for student teaching, and more. PELSB is updating these regulations, and we are working to ensure that they maintain high standards without imposing barriers to new and innovative programs that are working to fill teacher teachers and diversify the teacher workforce. 

PELSB has been working on this for over a year, and in February approved a draft that accounted for multiple rounds of stakeholder feedback. Staff are now advancing the final steps of formal rulemaking, including approval from the Governor, a public hearing, and eventually a public comment period. The hearing and comment period will give a final opportunity to weigh in on areas of support and concern.

Standards of Effective Practice

We now have the opportunity to rethink what’s most critical in teacher prep, particularly as our teachers are serving an increasingly diverse student body.

PELSB is also working on updating our state Standards of Effective Practice, which define the common set of knowledge and skills all teacher candidates must learn in their preparation programs. We now have the opportunity to rethink what’s most critical in teacher prep, particularly as our teachers are serving an increasingly diverse student body. The subcommittee leading this work continues to meet to identify areas most ripe for change before creating drafts.  

Next Steps

Educators, parents, and students all have a big stake in how teacher prep is designed and what teacher candidates learn. Now is the time to provide input. Here are a few ways to get involved: 

  • Join our webinar. If you’re an educator passionate about improving teacher preparation, join us on May 14 from 5-6:30 PM to talk more about the what and how of strengthening our state Standards of Effective Practice. Click here to RSVP.
  • Submit comments on teacher preparation program approval. Review the draft and submit your formal comments here
  • Submit comments on the Standards of Effective Practice. Whether you comment on the standards line by line or share big-picture, submit your formal comments here
  • Attend the PELSB Standards of Effective Practice meetings. Being present is a great way to keep tabs on what is (and isn’t) being discussed. Find (virtual) meeting dates and times here.