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Amid controversy, Legislative Auditor’s office to audit Board of Teaching

An early step in the audit process is a legislative roundtable on Friday morning to examine the issues and get input from legislators.

Auditor Jim Nobles

The state Legislative Auditor’s office has begun an audit of the Minnesota Board of Teaching, which has faced criticism and a lawsuit over its process of approving alternative pathways to teacher licensing.

One of the first steps in the audit will be a legislative roundtable Friday morning where interested lawmakers will weigh in on the issues and provide input for the audit staff.

A major focus of the audit will be an examination of how the Board of Teaching has, or has not, implemented a 2011 state law that was designed to make it easier for teachers from other states, or experts in particular fields, to get a Minnesota teaching license.

Judy Randall, project manager in the Office of the Legislative Auditor, said the Friday session, 9 a.m. in Room 300 North of the State Office Building, will get the process started.

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“We invite legislators who have an interest in the topic to talk about their concerns, and let us know what they’re hoping we look into,” she said. “It’s an informal process and we’re looking for input.”

There’s been much criticism of the Board’s work on alternative pathways to licensure and earlier this month a lawsuit was filed against the board by attorney Rhyddid Watkinson behalf of prospective teachers facing roadblocks from the Board.

The Office of the Legislative Auditor notes that the Board of Teaching was set up to ensure that qualified, licensed teachers work in state school, by establishing standards and approving teacher-prep programs.

While legislators and some school districts have long wanted to streamline non-traditional ways for teachers to get a license — usually for those with out-of-state licenses or someone with an expertise in a needed specialty — many feel the Board hasn’t moved fast enough.

“There’s a lot of interest in encouraging and promoting those alternative pathways, but people seem to be running into roadblocks,” Randall said.

In preparing for the audit, the Legislative Auditors office stated:

“Teacher licensure has been an area of perennial concern at the Legislature. Past and current legislative priorities have included (1) increasing diversity among Minnesota teachers as a means of addressing the widening student achievement gap, (2) making teacher testing requirements less onerous, and (3) establishing simpler pathways for teachers trained out of state to become licensed in Minnesota. Since 2011, the Legislature has made a number of changes to licensing requirements in an attempt to address these issues, and additional changes are pending.”

In trying to determine the Board of Teaching’s effectiveness in its response to the legislative mandates from the past few years, the Legislative Auditor’s office said it may consider: 

  • To what extent do the Board of Teaching’s activities overlap with those of the Minnesota Department of Education, and how do they coordinate efforts?
  • To what extent does the Board of Teaching manage licensing appeals, waivers, and the approval of teacher-preparation programs in a transparent, timely, and effective manner?
  • What progress has the Board of Teaching made in implementing legislative directives regarding teacher licensure, and what have been the outcomes of these efforts?

The Legislative Auditor’s office tries to have audits like these finished by the start of the next legislative session, which would be January 2016, Randall said.