Teacher Certification Changes Pending for Michigan

Tammy Jackson's picture

As part of the Michigan Department of Education’s (MDE) Top 10 in 10 plan, State Superintendent Whiston and his team are working to re-imagine Michigan’s teacher certification structure. Before we can talk about where we are heading, though, we must first review where we’ve been.

As you likely remember, President Bush signed the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) into law on January 8, 2002. It required all teachers to be Highly Qualified (HQ) beginning with the 2005-2006 school year. NCLB defined core subject areas to include English, reading or language arts, math, science, foreign language, civics and government, economic, arts, history and geography. Later, prior to the deadline, NCLB added flexibility in how teachers can be considered HQ by offering alternatives to demonstrating qualifications.

On December 10, 2015, President Obama signed the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) into law, which effectively replaced NCLB. ESSA focuses on equitable opportunities for all students, maintains school accountability for student achievement, protects disadvantaged and high needs students and returns some decision making to local states.

While ESSA removed reference to HQ, Michigan made it’s own decision to maintain the qualifications. Therefore, the State Board of Education responded to the lack of federal governance of teacher qualifications by acting to maintain the 2007 version of HQ until further notice. It was then that MDE truly began working to re-imagine teacher certification in Michigan.

Recently, a group of stakeholders including several representatives from most of the state’s university teacher preparation programs, building administrators, teachers and MDE employees, along with myself representing MASSP and our membership were tasked with looking at the work completed and data collected through previous stakeholder meetings and surveys. We were also given detailed information about the certification structure in other states. The charge to the group was to ultimately generate a recommendation to Superintendent Whiston.

The committee considered several non-negotiable expectations presented by MDE including:

  • Student centered decisions
  • Preserving categorical special education
  • Improvement of middle school teacher preparation
  • Reduction in the number of subjects a K-8 teacher can teach

In the end, the committee recommended five (5) certifications:

  • PK-3 - All subjects with a focus on ELA and Math with PK-3 Pedagogy
  • 3-6 - All subjects with a focus on ELA and Math with PK-3 Pedagogy
  • 5-9 - Select 2/4 core subjects and 5-9 Pedagogy
  • 7-12 - One subject but can add another with additional course work and 7-12 Pedagogy
  • PK-12 - One subject in the Fine Arts cluster (same as exists today)

While the committee unanimously agreed on the above levels of certification, we recognized that much work needed to be done to further define the content of each certification level. Upon approval of Superintendent Whiston, the next step in the process is to create a transition plan that bridges current and future certification. It’s important to note that all currently certified teachers will maintain their status to teach what they are teaching.

It is expected that MDE will soon publish additional information that will include a timeline. MASSP will provide more information and updates as they become available.