Teacher rules raise questions

Proposed regulations would alter the education teachers need for dual-credit courses.

Benjamin Farniok

A proposed policy that raises education requirements for high school teachers who instruct college-level classes is facing skepticism from some educators. Some teachers say the proposed rules could kill dual-enrollment programs at small schools and reduce the number of credits students have when they enter college. 
The change — part of a June revision of the Higher Learning Commission’s rules — would impact teachers like those who participate in the University of Minnesota’s College in the Schools program and Post Secondary Enrollment Option.
Teachers would need to either have a master’s degree in their teaching field or have 18 graduate credit hours in the field they teach plus a different master’s degree, according to a statement from John Hausaman, HLC spokesperson.
The HLC accredits the University of Minnesota, as well as other universities in the northern and central U.S.
CIS course aim to allow high school students with an opportunity for a more rigorous learning atmosphere while earning college credits.
“I can’t see my colleagues getting those extra 18 credits because we are already asked to do so much.” said Lisa Sohn, Hopkins Public Schools world language curriculum coordinator.
The revised rule is expected to be finalized in October said Bob Stine, associate dean of the College of Continuing Education, which handles education for the nearly 8,700 students who enrolled in CIS last year.
“I think most of our teachers will be OK,” he said, adding that he wants CIS courses to remain available for students across the state.
The changes may also include an alternative for experienced teachers who don’t have a master’s degree or enough credits — allowing them to continue teaching college-level courses.
Stine said the University appoints CIS teachers based on experience and education, so many teachers would meet the alternate requirements.
Kelly Dirks, a German teacher at Hopkins School District teaches CIS classes and said teachers and schools are unlikely to benefit much from the change.
“It’s measuring something by only one standard,” she said, adding that having a master’s degree doesn’t necessarily mean a teacher is qualified to instruct a language class.
Dirks, who holds a master’s in education, said she doubts the rule changes will pass as they are written now. 
She said she expects pushback from education experts who consider the rule unnecessary.
Sohn said some of Hopkins’ instructors have won the school’s Teacher of the Year awards, but would still not meet the proposed criteria.
She said she’s waiting to see what the final rules will be, but does not want to see teachers burdened by the proposed criteria.
The new rules could hurt programs at smaller schools that don’t have many options for dual-enrollment, effectively shutting down the programs, Sohn said.
The new criteria would go into effect in Sept. 1, 2017, pending possible revision before finalization in October.