The Star Tribune Editorial Board recently highlighted much-needed efforts to diversify Minnesota's teaching force ("Adding diversity to state teaching ranks," March 8). But a proposed piece of legislation, HF 1376, threatens to undermine that important work.
This bill would drastically change the existing tiered licensure system, eliminating a pathway to permanent licensure for diverse and effective teachers with a Tier 1 or Tier 2 license who have been working with students for years.
Currently, 21% of teachers who hold a Tier 1 or Tier 2 license are teachers of color — while teachers of color make up just 5.6% of Minnesota's teaching force overall. This change would create more barriers for teachers of color who are disproportionately represented in the first tiers of the system.
I am one such teacher.
After getting a Ph.D., I decided to pursue a teaching career in K-12 schools because I wanted the primary focus of my professional life to be teaching rather than research. Through a combination of mentoring, professional development and coaching, I have been a successful teacher for eight years.
The current tiered system finally provides me with a path toward more permanent licensure by recognizing teacher effectiveness and experience as criteria for advancement from a temporary license to a more permanent one.
This pathway gives me a chance at professional security within a public-school setting.
I have three postsecondary degrees in different social studies disciplines. I am a person of color and I am committed to public education. I have taught at the university level and have spent years adapting this experience to provide rigorous college preparatory instruction to middle and high school students.
The changes proposed in HF 1376 would push me out of public schools.
Under the guise of "professionalization," this bill would reduce the amount of time teachers could have a Tier 2 license and limit access to a Tier 3 license to those who complete costly teacher preparation programs or undertake a cumbersome portfolio process. This means that teachers with proven effectiveness in the classroom would not be eligible to continue teaching unless they had the time and financial resources to follow more traditional pathways to a license.
Such a change would have a disproportionate impact on teachers of color. In my case, this bill would require that I enroll in a traditional teacher preparation program to keep teaching. Ironically, because of my background and experience, I have been on degree-granting committees in the very programs in which this bill would require me to enroll.
I've written as a teacher, but I'd like to close as a parent with a child in Minneapolis Public Schools. I am more interested in knowing whether my daughter's teacher can implement best practices than I am in knowing whether she learned those practices in a classroom, at a workshop, through a mentor or with a coach.
If, like me, you care more about the effectiveness of your child's teacher than you do about their pedigree, I hope you'll join me in opposing HF 1376.
N'Jai-An Patters is a teacher in Minneapolis.