Teacher License Requirements Too Hard In Certain Specialties Given Teacher Shortage, State Board Says

Printed from: https://newbostonpost.com/2023/04/25/teacher-license-requirements-too-hard-in-certain-specialties-given-teacher-shortage-state-board-says/

A shortage in public school teachers has Massachusetts state education officials considering ways to make it easier for existing teachers to get certification in special education and English as a Second Language.

School nurses also may find it easier to get certification if the proposal passes in June.

“I think it’s important that we’re trying to continue to address staffing challenges while maintaining key qualifications. This would be an effort in that direction,” said Jeffrey Riley, commissioner of Elementary and Secondary Education, during a meeting of the Massachusetts Board of Elementary and Secondary Education on Tuesday, April 25.

“… What we’re trying to do is to be a little more flexible than we’ve been in the past, with the understanding that at some point we’ll probably ding back up later. But to deal with this issue to make sure our classes are fully staffed. We’re trying to be creative in some of the approaches we’ve been using. Based on demand, as well,” Riley said.

One proposed change would drop a current requirement to do a 150-hour internship in the classroom under the direction of a licensed teacher before a teacher who already has an initial license or a professional license in something else could get a provisional license in special education or English as a Second Language, said Brian Devine, director of education licensure.

Such a teacher would still need to do the 150-hour internship before getting a professional teacher’s license in those fields, Devine said.

“It allows someone to drop down to get a provisional license. Currently right now, when you have an initial or professional license and you want to obtain a license in moderate disabilities or ESL or even elementary to early childhood, an internship is required of 150 hours. So you have to be in the field, in the role. You’re mentored by an experienced educator, so someone that has an initial or professional license, during that 150 hours and then that’s signed off by the principal or superintendent. So this would allow someone to get that provisional license without the internship. And then while they have the provisional license, either employed under it or not, they could complete that 150 hours to then obtain the initial or professional license,” Devine said.

Matt Hills, of Newton, the board’s vice chairman, said the proposed changes sound so attractive he wondered if there were any downsides.

“This is all good. What am I missing?” Hills said.

Devine said he also thinks the proposal is good, but that a public comment period would allow suggestions to be made that could lead state officials to tweak the proposal.

Hills said that while the changes were spurred by a labor shortage, he thinks they possibly should be made even without a labor shortage.

Another proposed change would create a provisional license for school nurses, in hopes of attracting more nurses to work in public schools, which don’t pay as much as hospitals and other health-care employers.

The new provisional license would still require a communication and reading and writing skills test through the Massachusetts Tests for Education Licensure.

“But that seems to me an unnecessary barrier,” board member Tricia Canavan of South Hadley said, adding “it seems frankly silly to me.”

Devine said state law requires it.

A state statute (Massachusetts General Laws Chapter 71 Section 38G) says that to get a provisional educator license a person must “pass a test established by the board which shall consist of two parts:  (A)  a writing section which shall demonstrate the communication and literacy skills necessary for effective instruction and improved communication between school and parents; and (B) the subject matter knowledge for the certificate.”

Canavan called for asking the state legislature to change the law when it comes to school nurses.

“I think we need to put that on the to-do list because that just seems like an obstacle for these critical positions, particularly given the social emotional needs of our kids that heightened coming out of the pandemic,” Canavan said.

The board voted unanimously to open a public comment period on the proposed changes in regulations.

The board has meetings scheduled for Monday, June 26 and Tuesday, June 27, during which a final vote may be taken.

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