Teach for America and the University of Minnesota are in a race with the calendar to win state approval for the first alternative teacher licensing program in the state before its scheduled start in June.

The Minnesota Board of Teaching got its first look at the proposal submitted by the university to train teachers over two years for TFA, mostly while they’re already teaching students.

The proposal has been controversial among some students and staff at the university, who say it undercuts traditional teaching programs. But proponents say it actually gives TFA corps members more upfront supervised time in classrooms—under an experienced teacher—than the current five-week TFA program to train teachers before they get their own classrooms.

Chair John Bellingham said state staff will make every effort to get the matter on the board’s May 9  agenda, in time for the scheduled June 2 start of the university program, but that depends in part on outside academic reviewers who will review and comment on the proposal application.

The 2011 Legislature authorized alternative programs. The board last year balked over continuing blanket waivers from full licensing it had previously given TFA corps members, and required them to apply individually.

Deborah Dillon, a university professor specializing in curriculum and instruction, called the board’s questions on the proposal constructive.  The 30-credit program plans a June 2 start, assuming board and final internal university approval, but the academic portion doesn’t begin until mid-June.  “We’re feeling respectfully nervous about having it be processed in a timely fashion,” she said.