No takers for alternative teacher licenses

Published 4:00 pm Saturday, April 6, 2013

ST. PAUL — An alternative teacher licensing program in Minnesota hasn’t produced a single candidate in the two years since its inception.

No organizations have applied for approval to start training candidates under the program, which was approved by the Legislature in 2011 in an effort to fast-track licenses for teachers who hold them in other states or for professionals who want to switch careers, Minnesota Public Radio reported Friday ( ).

The program was set up to place professionals in the classroom with a temporary teaching license after 200 hours of training and preparation. Once the candidates pass the skills tests, they are given a teaching license.

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Minnesota Board of Teaching director Karen Balmer said the board hasn’t received a single application from a potential program provider interested in offering the training.

That’s a disappointment to professionals like Greg Hanson, a longtime dentist in Bloomington. Hanson, 59, has some neck and back problems that forced him to sell his practice. He’s not interested in retiring yet. His career experience makes him a candidate to teach biology or chemistry to middle school students, but he doesn’t want to spend one or two years in school earning a teaching license.

“The biologic clock is ticking,” he said. “I would prefer if I could to find a teaching position without going back to get a master’s degree.”

Potential teachers aren’t the only ones frustrated.

Charter schools in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area are desperate for a training program to ramp up so they can hire teachers licensed in other states, said Brian Sweeney, director of external affairs for Charter School Partners, a Minnesota-based group that helps start charter schools.

“If the intent of a piece of legislation is not being implemented, that’s a problem,” Sweeney said.

Balmer said it’s not the board’s job to recruit groups to start training programs. It’s simply supposed to create strict guidelines for those who want to do it.

“We don’t want teacher preparation programs to be fly-by-night programs,” she said. “It’s too important and we’ve got to get this right, both for the candidates they will enroll, and more importantly for the student they will serve at the end of the end of that program.”

She said she expected applications for alternative teacher licensure programs to start coming in soon.

One of the first could be from Teach for America, the national program that places college students in classrooms after a five-week summer training course. Crystal Brakke, who directs the program in the Twin Cities, said she thought her group would submit an application within the next two months.