Executive Order 20-04: Nuclear Option Wasn’t Necessary

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Graphic Credit: panamaadvisoryinternationalgroup.com

In a press release on March 18, Missouri Governor Mike Parson invoked emergency powers to authorize executive agencies to waive or suspend certain regulations and statutes that interfere with Missouri’s response to the spread of COVID-19. Executive Order 20-04 (EO 20-04) grants wide latitude to all state departments but primarily does three things: 

  1. Opens the door for more medical diagnoses and treatments through telemedicine.
  2. Enables commercial truck drivers to be at the wheel for longer periods (than currently allowed under federal law) so stores can restock goods more quickly.
  3. Removes teacher certification requirements with regard to qualifying scores on exit examinations, and culminating clinical experience in terms of semester hours, weeks, and number of placements. 

EO 20-04 is set to expire on May 15, 2020, but it could be extended, either partially or completely. 

DESE Issues Statement Detailing EO 20-04 

The Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) issued a statement to colleges and universities about how the removal of teacher certification requirements will affect students who are in the final stages of becoming teachers:

“The culminating clinical (student teaching) experience and internship are essential components of the educator preparation process and are designed to help prepare candidates to become professional educators ready for entry into Missouri PK-12 classrooms. Given recent restrictions and the closure of many PK-12 districts in response to COVID-19, we understand the need for EPPs to design innovative and alternate ways for educator candidates to practice the skills of professional educators in supervised settings.” 

We commend DESE for supporting universities, school districts, and college students during this challenging time. However, it’s possible that good intentions may result in unnecessary confusion and problems down the road. Some thoughts to consider: 

Simply removing clinical and exit examination requirements is risky. 

Content knowledge is important. In addition to completing their coursework and clinical experiences, pre-teachers must pass a series of comprehensive examinations. These exams ensure they are proficient in key skill areas that teachers must know. 

Putting theory into practice is essential. There’s a reason why state regulations require a supervised student teaching experience—to help college students put what they’ve learned in the coursework into practice. It’s one thing to read about educational theory and classroom management techniques. That said, it’s quite another to apply them in a real classroom. 

EO 20-04 didn’t necessitate a nuclear option. 

Instead of simply eliminating these essential requirements, DESE had another option. They could have kept their high standards for new teachers in place by making slight modifications to an existing path to certification. 

DESE could grant a Temporary Authorization Certificate to college graduates who are offered teaching jobs in Missouri public school districts in the fall. This one-year license enables school administrators to hire teachers and keep Missouri’s commitment to having highly qualified teachers. New teachers could complete their student teaching requirements in their own classrooms under the guidance of a seasoned mentor teacher. And, they would have extra time to take their exit examinations. This approach isn’t new—it’s been in practice for many years in the Show-Me State. 

DESE didn’t need to go nuclear and just remove essential requirements for teacher certification. It’s this type of knee-jerk reaction that leaves a bad taste in the mouths of Missouri residents. 

Originally posted on OneMissouri. Re-posted with permission.

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OneMissouri focuses on providing evidence-based information on key issues relevant to all Missourians like education, workforce development, healthcare, & more. Website: onemissouri.us

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