PELSB Approves Rule Changes to Address Defects and Submits Them to Chief ALJ

On August 30, the Professional Educator Licensing and Standards Board (PELSB), the new state entity which oversees teacher licensure, held a special board meeting to address defects in their rule draft that Administrative Law Judge (ALJ), Barbara Case, found in her August 16 report. PELSB had previously met on August 22 to review possible changes to correct the defects, with the hopes of approving them, but they did not have quorum.

This was the next step in what’s been a long and, sometimes, contentious rulemaking process for PELSB. For an overview of Minnesota’s transition to tiered licensure, which includes a history of the rulemaking process, read our briefing memo.

At the meeting, PELSB addressed 11 specific areas in rule where the ALJ had found defects. There were a few areas that only needed simple changes, like striking a line. However, other areas were more intensive and required PELSB to choose between different options. There was also a robust discussion between PELSB and public stakeholders on several of the changes considered. The meeting concluded with PELSB voting 6-2 to approve the rule changes.

This post will provide an overview of some of the changes PELSB made to rule and the next steps in the rulemaking process.

Changes Made to Two Most Contentious Areas: Cultural Competency and Tier 1 Mentoring

As we’ve previously written, two of the most contentious areas in the rule draft were:

  • Requirement for Tier 1 teachers to receive mentorship for a first time renewal.
  • PELSB’s definition of cultural competency training programs.

For Tier 1 mentorship, the ALJ determined, “The most reasonable reading of the statute is that it requires Tier 1 teachers to participate in a mentorship program and that a district that does not have a mentorship program cannot hire a Tier 1 applicant.” With that said, she did find a defect with the phrase “board-adopted criteria” because “The rule does not provide a clear rule that the general public can understand.”

To address this issue, PELSB struck the “board-adopted criteria” language and created a formal definition for what a mentorship program would entail. Importantly, the program definition would only be applicable for Tier 1 teachers, and not for Tier 2, Tier 3, or Tier 4.

With regard to cultural competency training, Judge Case found that PELSB had “sufficient facts to adequately support the need for and reasonableness of the proposed rule.” However, she strongly recommended that PELSB replace its proposed rule with language that is already in the Standards of Effective Practice, which PELSB did in their rule changes.

Acceptable Applicants: Prescriptive List by PELSB or District Discretion?

The teacher licensure legislation states that a district can hire a Tier 1 licensed teacher if they are unable to hire “an acceptable teacher with a Tier 2, 3, or 4 license.” Importantly, the legislation does not define “acceptable” nor does it indicate whether PELSB or the district has the discretion to determine who an “acceptable” candidate is.

The ALJ determined PELSB does have the authority to define the word “acceptable” because if left to each district it would “not provide a clear, understandable and generally applicable standard for administering teaching credentials.” With that said, the ALJ asserted that PELSB’s proposal to review applications on a “case-by-case basis” did not provide a clear standard. In her report, the ALJ provided a number of recommendations for how PELSB could rectify this defect. She concluded that whatever PELSB decided to do, they must make it clear what constitutes an unacceptable higher-tiered candidate.

At the August 30 meeting, PELSB addressed this defect by creating a list of five acceptable attributes that districts could indicate a Tier 2, Tier 3, or Tier 4 applicant did not possess as rationale for why they wanted to hire a Tier 1 teacher instead.

PELSB also aligned their criteria of “not acceptable” applicants for Out-Of-Field Permissions with the change they made for the Tier 1 process.

Man, This Rulemaking Process is Long. When Will it Be Done?

On August 31, PELSB submitted their rule changes to Judge Tammy Pust, the Chief ALJ. Judge Pust has five business days to review. After the Chief ALJ reviews the changes, one of two things will happen:

  • If the changes PELSB made are deemed substantial by the Chief ALJ, then the public comment period will start over again.
  • If the changes are not deemed substantial then, on the same day, PELSB will submit the rules to Governor Dayton for approval and take other procedural steps necessary for final adoption.

Education Evolving will continue to follow and report on the PELSB rulemaking process and other relevant topics with regard to teacher licensure.

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