On May 9, the Arlington School Committee adopted a resolution urging the reform of teacher licensure, and the elimination of the Massachusetts Tests for Educator Licensure (MTEL), as part of an effort to recruit diverse educators into Massachusetts. This resolution will be presented for consideration by the Delegate Assembly of the Massachusetts Association of School Committees on Friday, November 8, 2019. The oversight of licensure by non-educators has resulted in a complex, difficult licensure system that discourages qualified candidates from applying for licensure and employment in Massachusetts. Recruiting a diverse, qualified cohort of new educators will be enhanced if the barriers presented by MTEL are removed, and if licensure regulations and standards are placed in the hands of a committee of educators.
The requirement to conduct a licensing test was established by the Legislature (MGL Chapter 71, Section 38G) under the 1993 Education Reform Act, and was implemented in 1998 under the leadership of Board of Education Chair John R. Silber. To be eligible for certification as a provisional educator, the candidate shall
(1) hold a bachelor’s degree in arts or sciences from an accredited college or university with a major course in the arts or sciences appropriate to the instructional field; (2) pass a test established by the board which shall consist of two parts:
(A) a writing section which shall demonstrate the communication and literacy skills necessary for effective instruction and improved communication between school and parents; and
(B) the subject matter knowledge for the certificate; and(3) be of sound moral character.
The Board of Elementary and Secondary Education establishes the regulations for the teacher testing program. The MTEL is administered by Pearson Education.
The Communication and Literacy Skills test contains two subtests: The Reading subtest consists of 42 multiple-choice questions, and the Writing subtest consists of 35 multiple-choice questions, 7 short-answer sentence correction items, and 2 open-response assignments.
The test fee for the Reading subtest is $76, the Writing subtest is $85, and the fee for taking both subtests on the same day is $112.
Subject area tests vary in format, but generally they take four hours and has a fee of $139. For example, the Music subject area test contains 100 multiple-choice items and 2 open-response assignments.
Educator licensure regulations are set by the state Board of Elementary Education, and licenses are granted by the Commissioner under the supervision of the Board. Membership of the Board is governed under Chapter 15, Section 1E of the General Laws:
No appointive member of said board shall be employed by or receive regular compensation from the department of education, or from any school system, public or independent, in the commonwealth, or serve as a member of any school committee.
Thus, the teacher testing requirements were implemented by non-educators, and licensure regulations and standards are determined by non-educators. Education is the only profession or trade in the Commonwealth where practitioners are banned from serving on the board that regulates their license.
While these may seem to be two different topics, they are intertwined, as the board has nurtured the Pearson testing program without any evidence that barrier is a reliable and valid indicator of the ability to perform as an educator. Board members are imposing a testing regimen they have never experienced, and establishing professional regulations they never need to observe.
Further reforms enacted by the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education have established a prescriptive educator evaluation system. School committees are familiar with these requirements, as they are required to evaluate and report on the superintendent’s performance annually. Given the standards that need to be demonstrated by a first year teacher in the state evaluation process, rigorous screening of applicants and the prescribed evaluation of first year teachers can ensure the recruitment and retention of high quality educators without the barrier of a difficult teacher testing regimen at the entry point of the profession.
RESOLUTION PERTAINING TO EDUCATOR DIVERSITY AND PROFESSIONAL LICENSURE for submission to the MASC Delegate Assembly Adopted by the Arlington School Committee, May 9, 2019
WHEREAS current research clearly demonstrates that public school students benefit from a diverse teaching staff; and
WHEREAS Massachusetts districts are challenged to attract a diverse teaching staff; and
WHEREAS attracting diverse candidates often involves recruiting candidates from outside Massachusetts; and
WHEREAS Massachusetts licensure requirements, including the Massachusetts Tests for Educator Licensure (MTEL) requirements, serve as a disincentive for candidates looking to relocate to take a teaching position; and
WHEREAS test administration is conducted in centers that are often inaccessible without a car; and
WHEREAS the cost of testing can be a barrier to potential applicants; and
WHEREAS there is no evidence the MTEL is a reliable or valid measure of successful practice as an educator; and
WHEREAS school districts are capable of selecting qualified candidates for teaching positions, as well as supervising, evaluating, and deciding on whether to retain the services of probationary candidates; and
WHEREAS the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education governs educator licensure in Massachusetts; and
WHEREAS practicing educators and school committee members are prohibited from serving on the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education; and
WHEREAS the teaching profession is the only profession or trade in Massachusetts where the holders of a license are prohibited from serving on its governing board; and
THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that the Massachusetts Association of School Committees calls for the elimination of the MTEL as a licensing requirement for educators; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the Massachusetts Association of School Committees calls for the governance and licensure of professional educators to be vested in a board comprised of licensed educators.
RATIONALE: The licensure of Massachusetts educators is governed by the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education. The oversight of licensure by non-educators has resulted in a complex, difficult licensure system that discourages qualified candidates from applying for licensure and employment in Massachusetts. Recruiting a diverse, qualified cohort of new educators will be enhanced if the barriers presented by MTEL are removed, and if licensure regulations and standards are placed in the hands of a committee of educators.