Major changes to Minnesota's teacher licensure system

The 2017 legislative session ended with passage of new laws that will dramatically change Minnesota’s teacher licensure system and the board that oversees and administers that system. 
The new law means Minnesota is adopting a tiered licensure system.  Once the transition is completed, all teachers in Minnesota’s public and charter schools will have one of the following licenses:

  • Tier 1
  • Tier 2
  • Tier 3
  • Tier 4
  • Short-call substitute license 
  • Long-call substitute license
  • Life-time substitute license

Transition timeline
After July 1, 2018, all new applicants who meet eligibility requirements for teaching licenses will be placed into the new tiered system.  During the 2018-2019 school year, all teachers who have current professional five-year licenses that are up for renewal will move to a Tier 4 license at the time of that renewal.  During that same year, those teachers with professional licenses that are not yet up for renewal will be automatically moved to a Tier 4 license, though the renewal date on the new Tier 4 license will be identical to the renewal date on their original license.  

General overview of tiers
The Tier 1 license is designed for educators who are now captured under the language of the non-licensed community expert, or NLCE. Minnesota schools will still have NLCEs in schools in the 2017-2018 school year, but starting July 1, 2018, that category will be replaced by the Tier 1 license. Candidates for a Tier 1 license will need a BA degree if teaching in any field other than career and technical education. Tier 1 teachers will not be in the teacher bargaining unit and will not accumulate years of probationary status. 

The Tier 2 license will be the designation for teachers trained in other states who are still working on Minnesota-specific requirements for Tiers 3 and 4, teachers already in classrooms while currently enrolled in teacher preparation programs, and other teachers who have some combination of teaching experience and teacher preparation.  Tier 2 teachers will be in the teacher bargaining unit but will not accumulate years of probationary status.  

The Tier 3 license is the first license that will be issued to teachers trained in Minnesota teacher preparation programs or in other states that meet Minnesota’s requirements and who have passing scores on content and pedagogy exams. These teachers are in the teacher bargaining unit and must complete three years of successful teaching as probationary teachers.  If a teacher got to Tier 3 via Tier 2, then up to two years of successful teaching at Tier 2 can be credited toward the Tier 3 teacher’s three-year probationary requirement.  This license will be eligible for unlimited renewals and must be renewed every three years.

The Tier 4 license is the designation for all teachers who have a current five-year, professional license when this transition occurs.  Going forward, requirements for a Tier 4 license include all of the requirements for Tier 3, a minimum of three years of teaching in Minnesota, passing scores on the basic skills exam (or one of the alternatives approved by the board), and evidence that the most recent teacher evaluation did not place the teacher on an improvement plan pursuant to teacher development and evaluation law. These teachers will be in the bargaining unit. Tier 4 licenses will be eligible for unlimited renewals and must be renewed every five years. 

License renewals
The new legislation changes licensure renewal requirements, and it requires the new Professional Educator Licensing and Standards Board, or PELSB, to adopt rules for that process. One change that we know is coming for the renewal of Tier 3 and Tier 4 licenses is that starting in the 2018-2019 school year, individual teachers applying for renewal can include teacher evaluations as evidence of successful teaching. Another change for those holding Tier 3 or Tier 4 licenses is that professional development focused on cultural competency will be a requirement at the time of renewal. Look to future publications for more information as the PELSB clarifies expectations for renewal through the rule-making process. 

Professional Educator Licensing and Standards Board
As of Jan. 1, 2018, the Minnesota Board of Teaching will be replaced by the Professional Educator Licensing and Standards Board. Currently, the Board of Teaching, or BOT, establishes the rules and standards for teacher licensure, while the licensing division at the Minnesota Department of Education issues the actual licenses.  Going forward, all licensing duties will be moved to this new PELSB.  This new board will also be the body to consider teacher disciplinary issues. Education Minnesota is working closely with staff at MDE and the BOT in order to ensure as smooth a transition as possible for our members.