Teacher Preparation

Judge Orders Minn. Teacher Board to Restore ‘Portfolio’ Licensing Route

By Stephen Sawchuk — January 04, 2016 2 min read
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A Minnesota court has ordered the state’s board of teaching to restore a licensing option it stopped operating in 2012—a win for plaintiffs in an ongoing lawsuit over certification.

Judge Shawn Bartsh granted partial summary judgment on behalf of 20 teachers, most of whom are out-of-state teachers whose attempts to get a license in Minnesota have been mired in red tape.

The specific option has to do with a “portfolio” licensing process, which the board apparently closed in 2012 despite its existence in state law. Some 530 teachers were licensed under this process between 2004 and 2012.

Under the order, the board of teaching must reinstate the portfolio process, begin to accept, review, and process applications, and complete reviewing any already-submitted portfolio. It must also issue new rules outlining specifically how the portfolio process works.

“In light of the fact that over 500 teachers successfully received licensure through the portfolio process and given the current need for teachers in Minnesota, the court is made to wonder why the board would abandon what from all appearances was a successful program that gave licenses to qualified persons,” Bartsh wrote. “The board’s on-going suspension of the portfolio program constitutes a violation of Minnesota law.”

The state legislature has repeatedly told the board to clarify its certification rules, but critics contend it has dragged its feet in doing so. (It is not entirely clear why, because the board’s legal responses were largely procedural; it did not contest that it had shuttered the portfolio process.)

Under the order, the judge will hold a compliance hearing on Jan. 29 to determine whether the board is complying.

UPDATED 4:45 p.m.: The Board of Teaching helpfully reminds us that while it makes policy regarding licensing, the state education department actually has to process licensing applications. Click this sentence for the website where updates will be posted.

“As this type of application is implemented collectively by the Minnesota Department of Education with support from the Board, we will continue to collaborate to reinstate licensure via portfolio as an alternative means of demonstrating one’s qualifications for licensure. The Board intends to fully comply with the judge’s order and will report the progress of both agencies in the days ahead,” its executive director, Erin Doan, said in a statement.

More on Minnesota’s licensing troubles:

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A version of this news article first appeared in the Teacher Beat blog.