Revisions to Montana Teacher Licensing Rules Advance After Board of Public Education Meeting | Local News

The State Office of Public Instruction presented to the Council of Public Instruction its proposed changes to teacher licensing rules who seek to reduce certain requirements and expand opportunities to obtain a teaching license in Montana.

Specific recommendations include reducing the years of experience required to earn certain licenses, leveling the playing field for those who have taken alternative paths to becoming a teacher, and reciprocity for spouses and dependents of service members with licenses in other states. Most of the changes are aimed at addressing the persistent problem of teacher shortages statewide, the OPI said.

The Board of Public Education approved the recommendations at its two-day meeting last week.

One of the first changes presented suggests providing more opportunities for future teachers to obtain their license, rather than relying on a score on the Praxis test, an exam that measures the knowledge and skills needed to be a teacher. More than 40 states, including Montana, require a passing score to meet licensing and certification requirements.

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In order to show competence beyond a Praxis score, the task force recommends that prospective teachers have either a passing grade on their student teaching portfolio or a minimum of 3.0 GPA in related courses. to their degree in education.

Another new rule would allow military spouses and dependents to teach in Montana with a current teaching license issued by another state.

“Removing these barriers, creating reciprocity and licensing requirements, and facilitating placement opportunities can help a military family’s financial stability, hasten the family’s assimilation into its new location, and create a new desirable pool of employees for the state,” said Crystal Andrews, director of educator licensing at OPI.

Thirty-eight states have similar rules for military spouses, including North Dakota, South Dakota, Wyoming, Colorado, Oregon and Washington. At least four people could have benefited from this new rule in 2021, OPI said.

Several board members questioned why Montana’s rule would include dependents when most states only extend that flexibility to spouses. Others pointed out that the rule did not include a definition of what it considered a dependent, such as age or housing status.

“These questions have been raised…and I don’t think we’ve come up with a definitive (answer), but the reason for including dependents is that they’ve been stated to be moving with the military family,” he said. answered Andrews.

Another proposed change includes reducing the time period required to obtain a teaching license in Montana through an alternate route from five years to zero.

Currently, teachers who have completed an out-of-state educator preparation program must provide proof of five years of experience at a state-accredited school while holding a license before obtaining a license. Montana teaching license in most cases.

Typically, a person who has taken an alternative route to earning a teaching license in Montana has not completed a traditional teacher certification program, such as those offered at Montana State University or the University of Montana. Teach for America is an example of an alternative certification opportunity.

“The reason is that there are 32 states that treat out-of-state educators the same no matter what kind of prep program they go through,” Andrews said. “Montana is one of 19 states that makes it harder for foreign applicants to obtain a license if they follow an alternative teacher preparation path.”

The rule change is intended to address “persistent shortages of educators in Montana,” particularly in rural communities, she added.

“These shortages have raised questions about whether Montana’s current licensing requirements serve the best interests of the state,” Andrews said.

Superintendent of Public Instruction Elsie Arntzen’s recommendation to zero experience in an alternate pathway is intended to treat teachers who take traditional and alternate programs the same, said Julie Murgle, director of operations at ‘OPI.

During public comments on the recommendations, Sarah Pennington, an assistant professor at MSU in the Department of Education, expressed her concerns, as a teacher, about the proposed changes to the alternative certification.

“I took an alternative certification to get my teaching license and was totally unprepared compared to my peers who went through a traditional curriculum,” Pennington said. “I honestly engaged in educational malpractice in my early years as a teacher because I was unprepared, uninformed, about pedagogy, about best practices, about developing the child.”

According to her experience, she had a “fantastic knowledge” of English literature and only needed to take two more tests for her alternative certification experience, while her online mentor didn’t impress her much, said she declared.

“So this idea of ​​making alternative certification equivalent to teacher training concerns me, having experienced both sides now as a teacher, educator and as an alternatively authorized person. I just want to say that I really hope that Montana doesn’t think we need to lower our standards just because other states are lowering the barriers…” Pennington said.

Arntzen thanked those involved in drafting the recommendations and called for public input.

“I encourage our Montana parents, teachers and community leaders to revisit these flexible changes that demand quality education in our Montana public schools,” she said.

A public hearing has been set for February 24. Written public comments will be accepted until April 8, and changes will be finalized at a meeting of the Board of Public Education on May 12-13.

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