Nonprofit, independent journalism. Supported by readers.

MinnPost's education reporting is made possible by a grant from the Bush Foundation.

A followup on alternative certification for teachers: exhibits of note

We’ll start with a July 26 letter from Minnesota Commissioner of Education Brenda Cassellius to the Board of Teaching, outlining several concerns.

Graduates of nontraditional training programs in other states face a tricky certification process if they hope to teach in Minnesota.
REUTERS/Jonathan Alcorn

On Wednesday, this space carried a story reporting that a year and a half after the passage of a law that would allow teachers who learned their trade in nontraditional training programs in other states to secure Minnesota licenses, the Minnesota Board of Teaching has yet to implement the process.

As a result, a cadre of high-performing charter schools serving the state’s neediest students is struggling to fill open teaching positions, and experienced teachers with solid track records elsewhere can’t take the jobs.

Today, we’re following up with a handful of exhibits of note, starting with a July 26 letter [PDF] from Minnesota Commissioner of Education Brenda Cassellius to the board outlining several concerns.

“As you know, this was a high priority for both Gov. [Mark] Dayton and the Legislature as a strategy to attract highly qualified mid-career professionals to address shortages in high need areas, help close achievement gaps and diversify our teaching corps,” it states. “I understand developing this approval process is a complex and lengthy endeavor; however, more than one year later it is still unclear how the BOT is moving forward to ensure its success. … If the Department can assist you in finalizing work in this area, we stand ready.”

Article continues after advertisement

Next, we’re posting a copy of the application for a temporary license [DOC] the principal and teachers quoted in our story had to fill out to get the variance. It’s interesting to note that it not only requires the signature of the head of the local bargaining unit but also spells out specific venues in which ads for traditionally licensed candidates must have been placed.

Finally, you can get an applicant’s-eye view of the process from the following e-mail exchange between one of the frustrated teachers quoted in the story — who made her résumé available for perusal [PDF] — and licensing authorities.

[Advisory to comment-thread haters and others who might want to blast one or the other of the correspondents: We’ve edited the exchange to take out information that would facilitate harassing communications. Please also note that the MDE official in question doesn’t make the rules and should not be taken to task for doing her job, which is to comply with the rules she’s been given.]

April 8, 2010

Dear Kathryn Spotts:

Your application for a Minnesota license has been received and reviewed. 

Please be aware Minnesota does not have reciprocity with any state/country for teacher licensure. Programs completed in other states and/or countries other than Minnesota are contingent on meeting the provisions of Minnesota Rule 8710.0400. I have attached a link to this rule:

In order to qualify for a full-time standard Minnesota license in Elementary Education for grades K-6 and Social Studies for grades 5-8, we must receive evidence that you meet the standards based on Minnesota Rule 8710.2000 Standards of Effective Practice for Teachers and Minnesota Rule 8710.3200 Teachers of Elementary and Minnesota Rule 8710.3330 Middle Level Endorsement License for Teachers of Social Studies.  I have attached a link to these rules for your reference:;;

Based on a review of the submitted materials, it appears you have completed an alternative route for licensure through New Jersey’s Provisional Teacher Program (PTP). We are unable to determine if the content of this program is equivalent to a Minnesota approved program as the transcripts have not been submitted. Minnesota does need transcripts and possibly the program requirements or additional information to determine if the alternative program is equivalent to a Minnesota approved program.

Article continues after advertisement

Minnesota requires methods in Science, Math, Art, Music, Social Studies, Physical Education, Reading, Children’s Literature and Health for the Elementary Education teaching license. I reviewed the materials submitted and I cannot find any of these methods specifically listed. Minnesota also requires supervised student teaching.

You are encouraged to contact a Minnesota college to review your previous coursework and determine what additional coursework may be required to obtain a Minnesota license in the area of Elementary Education for grades K-6 and Social Studies for grades 5-8.  You may find a listing of Minnesota approved programs via the internet at  This site allows you to narrow your search according to your specific needs.

You may qualify for a Limited Full-Time license by submitting the signed District Verification form for this type of licensure. I have attached the form for this license for your convenience.  This limited license is valid for any licensure area in which you hold at least a minor in.

I have also included a form for a Limited Short-Call substitute teaching license. This license would allow you to teach in any classroom for no more then 15 consecutive days on the same assignment.

If you have any questions or concerns, please contact me directly.

Debby Odell, MN Department of Education, Educator Licensing

From: Kathryn Spotts
Sent: Friday, June 15, 2012 7:46 AM
To: Odell, Debby (MDE)
Subject: Reapplicant for MN Licensure – File Folder #452801

Ms. Odell,

I’m curious about the policies for reapplying for licensure.  I will be applying with passing scores from the relevant K-6 tests, under the provision outlined in the alt cert bill (copied below).

Are reapplicants expected to resubmit all materials?  For instance, I’m wondering if I need to get fingerprinted again, supply transcripts again, and pay the processing fee. Thanks for your help.


On Tue, Jun 19, 2012 at 9:34 AM, Odell, Debby (MDE) wrote:

Article continues after advertisement

Hi Kathryn –

Minnesota does not issue a license based on passing our required state testing.  You need to also have completed a state approved licensure program (standard or alternative) that is essentially equivalent to a Minnesota approved program for the same area. 

Our records show you applied in 2010 and were sent out information at that time regarding the program you completed out-of-state was not equivalent to a Minnesota approved program.  Passing our state required testing would not change this review.

Debby Odell

From: Kathryn Spotts
Sent: Tuesday, June 19, 2012 10:02 AM
To: Odell, Debby (MDE)
Subject: Re: Reapplicant for MN Licensure – File Folder #452801

Hi there,

I completed New Jersey’s state-approved alternative certification program.  I’m in a bind because it does not issue transcripts, which means that even though it is equivalent to a Minnesota-approved program, New Jersey doesn’t issue the evidence that Minnesota needs.  I’m worried that my opportunities are limited here because of the two states’ conflicting bureaucratic policies.

Regardless, I will be teaching next year at Hiawatha Leadership Academy, and I would like to reapply so that my case can be reviewed again under the alt cert bill language.  Can you please let me know what the requirements are for reapplicants?


Article continues after advertisement


From: Odell, Debby (MDE)
Date: Tue, Jun 19, 2012 at 10:32 AM
Subject: RE: Reapplicant for MN Licensure – File Folder #452801
To: Kathryn Spotts

Hi Kathryn –

The alternative licensure bill authorized the Minnesota Board of Teaching to approve alternative licensure programs in Minnesota.  The Board of Teaching has not completed the approval process for this yet.  I have attached information for your review.

Unless you have completed additional coursework for review, I don’t recommend re-applying for a full-time standard license as the review will remain the same.

You can follow the options available which were listed in the letter sent to you previously (dated April 8, 2010).


Debby Odell