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DESE removes barrier to teaching certification

Missouri’s Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) Board of Education voted to eliminate a cumulative grade point average (GPA) requirement for teaching license applicants. 

The new amendment eliminated the required 3.0 cumulative GPA for education students applying for teaching licenses. The board voted to apply the amendment to each area of the state’s K-12 education system, from early childhood to secondary and special education.

Paul Katnik, assistant commissioner of the Office of Educator Quality, presented the agenda item before the board Tuesday morning. 

“We took a look at some data on cumulative GPA and saw that there is no research that says cumulative GPA gives you a better teacher,” Katnik said. “It keeps us from getting what we want — we want to see a gender-balanced, diverse, high-quality teacher workforce, and it’s a barrier to that. We have other measures that not only tell us about the quality of the candidate but about the quality of the program that prepared them.”

Katnik said the board looked into other states’ policies, finding no cumulative GPA requirements in surrounding Midwestern states.

Board members voiced their support for the inclusive possibility of the amendment, expressing hope that removing the requirement would expand opportunities to a more diverse range of applicants.

Education students will still be required to maintain a 2.75 overall GPA to obtain a teaching license. 

The board also announced the formation of an Office of Early Learning, a group of workers from various state agencies focused on early childhood education. The new office will focus on early learning and literacy as part of the state’s Show Me Strong Recovery Plan.

“We’re doing great work to better align efforts between agencies, and we saw a need to model that in our own department,” said Commissioner of Education Margie Vandeven. “Bringing our early learning team members into one office will enhance our efforts towards achieving equitable access, inclusive practices, and high-quality early learning opportunities for Missouri’s children and their families.”

The office will administer funds from the $33.5 million Preschool Development Grant Birth-Five (PDG B-5) awarded to the state earlier this year. The primary goal will be preparing children to begin school.

During August’s agenda meeting, the board agreed to lower barriers to substitute teaching certificates, reducing the amount of training needed from 60 hours of training to 20 in response to an expected shortage due to COVID-19.

The next Board of Education agenda meeting is set to be held in December.