ST. PAUL, Minn. – In small and large schools across the state, principals and superintendents share stories of numerous teaching positions sitting vacant for months with no applicants for districts to hire. It’s a story becoming more commonplace by the year, and an issue superintendents say needs to be solved quickly. Sen. LeRoy Stumpf (DFL-Plummer) authored a bill which gets at the heart of the issue. His bill (S.F. 298) was heard in the Senate E-12 Policy Committee last week.
Part of the shortage is being blamed on a new licensure test implemented in 2012 called the MTLE which is proving difficult for many teachers to pass. The MTLE is a series of three tests (college level skills, pedagogy and content area), the college level skills section is unnecessarily difficult and not aligned with the professional requirements of teachers. The committee heard testimony last Thursday from several successful teachers including a kindergarten and an art teacher about their passion for teaching, but their inability to pass portions of the MTLE. Without a change in the law, these teachers will lose their jobs, as they are unable to pass the test that grants them a license. Others testified that the multiple-choice, strictly timed MTLE doesn’t accurately reflect a teacher’s success in the classroom.
“This teacher shortage problem is a big deal in my district and I’m hearing from school districts that there needs to be a change. The bill I’m introducing provides a work-around for new teachers, instead of passing the MTLE they just need to show they have received college credit for math and writing courses and they need to demonstrate their job responsibilities in the classroom relating to reading, writing and math skills,” said Stumpf.
While Stumpf acknowledges this may be a short-term fix to the shortage problem, he says many legislators share his concerns and that a long-term solution may take several years to achieve. He adds that in border areas of the state many teachers are applying for jobs in neighboring states where there aren’t as many requirements for teachers and the pay is the same. Laine Larson, the superintendent from Thief River Falls in Stumpf’s district summed up the way many legislators and teaching professionals feel.
“A test won’t tell you how wonderful a teacher will be in a classroom,” Larson said.
For more information, Sen. Stumpf can be reached at LeRoyS@senate.mn or at (651) 296-8660.