A recent report released by the Minnesota Professional Educator Licensing and Standards Board (PELSB) has drawn sharp criticism from an education advocacy group seeking to increase the number of teachers of color in the state.

EdAllies, a Minneapolis-based nonprofit, said PELSB’s first official annual report on teacher licenses under Minnesota’s new tiered licensing system omits critical data about the teacher workforce, leaving out 18% of teachers of color who did not have a “tiered” license but instead were given “special permission” by the licensure board to teach.

“If Minnesota is going to move the needle on actually increasing and retaining teachers of color and Native American teachers, obviously, we need accurate, timely and correct data in order to make policy decisions about how best to do that,” said Daniel Sellers, executive director of EdAllies.

So far, efforts to address the state’s shortage of teachers of color have had only limited success. Only 5% of part-time and full-time teachers are people of color, a recent Star Tribune analysis found.

In the 2018-19 academic year, nearly 500 teachers of color who did not finish teacher preparation programs were granted special permission to teach, said Sellers. Those teachers, he said, were supposed to be transferred to one of the lowest “tier” licenses by last year, but because of technical delays in moving from the old teacher licensing system to the new one, PELSB authorized a year’s extension, which expired on June 30.

Education activists are preparing for an upcoming legislative session that could revive a debate around changes to the lowest “tier” licenses — which could impact teachers of color because many of them hold those licenses. EdAllies officials say they are worried that there may be legislative decisions or discussions made based on PELSB’s “faulty” data.

Minnesota’s new teacher licensure rule, which went into effect in 2018, does not require PELSB to include teachers on “special permission” in their report because the designation was repealed and replaced with the new system. But many were under the impression that those teachers would move into the new “tiered” licensure system and therefore would be included in PELSB’s report.

Casey Carmody, a spokesman for PELSB, said teachers don’t get transferred automatically to “tiered” license status; they have to apply for it and obtain it. Those who applied and got a “tiered” license between July 1, 2018, and June 30, 2019, are included in the report, he said. The licensing body is still collecting data on those who previously had limited or special permission licenses, he said.

“This isn’t a report that’s required by the Legislature,” Casey said. “It’s a report the licensure board created to give an overview of how they are doing with tiered licensure.”