Teacher standards may hurt students

Daily Editorial Board

College-level courses offered in Minnesota high schools may soon be taught solely by teachers who have a master’s degree or graduate credits in their subject. 
 
The requirement comes from the Higher Learning Commission, which accredits higher education institutions in 19 states. Universities and colleges — the institutions that would accept college credits from high schools — must comply with these new requirements by 2017 or risk losing funding and accreditation. 
 
We believe these new requirements will adversely affect Minnesota students who attend underfunded and understaffed schools throughout the state.
 
During the 2014-15 academic year, 24,000 Minnesota students enrolled in dual-credit courses, which are classes that count for both high school and college credit. Beyond academic benefits, dual-credit courses allow students to earn college credit without paying thousands of dollars as undergraduates. They are also convenient for students who do not have the means to travel to local universities or colleges during the school day. 
 
Officials are still trying to determine how many teachers the new standard will affect. However, they believe most teachers won’t make the cut. As a result, this new regulation has the potential to deny countless students the benefits of dual-credit courses.
 
In response to this new regulation, we believe Minnesota should develop programs that will provide grants to teachers seeking to complete their master’s degrees. In particular, these grants should favor rural school districts, which already face severe teacher shortages.  
 
Even with grants like these, new teaching qualifications that place unnecessary burdens on individual teachers are misguided. The Higher Learning Commission should rethink its dual-credit certification requirements.