Rep. Patricia Mueller: Schools need help and current bills won’t cut it

Published 5:33 pm Friday, February 24, 2023

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We desperately need more teachers. To address this issue, the majority party has proposed removing the content area licensure exam for teachers. The Professional Educator Licensing Board (PESLB) claims that there is no correlation between those who pass or fail the licensure exams and those who become effective teachers. They have said that teaching is a performative profession and must be evaluated accordingly. They claim our teacher preparation programs in higher education are rigorous enough to prepare a teacher.

The problem is that teachers are testifying in committee that they were not taught how to teach reading or how to effectively manage classroom discipline. I agree that paper/pencil tests will not give a complete picture of a teacher’s effectiveness,  but there is no other profession that removes an independent licensure mechanism to become a practitioner. I propose that we replace this independent mechanism with a teacher residence program or with a panel. We need to know that our teachers are prepared to be in the classroom, because simply relying on our traditional teacher preparation programs is not enough.

The other detrimental change to the licensure tiers that the majority party is proposing is to remove the experience pathway teachers can use to move from Tier 2 to Tier 3. Right now, if a lower-tiered teacher works for three years and can prove they know the material and are effective teachers, they can move up to a higher level of licensure. One bill moving through the House would eliminate that pathway, which is especially disappointing because many of the teachers who use this pathway are teachers of color, who are desperately needed in our classrooms. I find it pretty hypocritical that we have to remove the licensure exams because the teaching profession is a performative profession, but PELSB will not recognize performance in the classroom to go to the next tier.

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Another proposal from the majority party to address the teacher workforce shortage has been to invest $18 million dollars into a pilot residency program for 400 teachers. This is a lot of money for very few positions because it intentionally funnels the teachers through the traditional teacher preparation programs. I have a different solution: we need to emulate Tennessee’s Teacher’s Apprenticeship Program. Tennessee is one of the first states to create a federally recognized Teacher Apprenticeship Program that allows teachers to learn from master teachers and work through the state’s Grow Your Own program. In Minnesota, we already have the Tiered Licensure framework. This would be a perfect beginning for a Teacher Apprenticeship Program and would allow districts to find teachers that reflect the student population of their communities. It would also bring more teachers into the profession at a more fiscally responsible price tag.

I hope to continue to work with the majority party to get real help for our hurting schools and teachers.