JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — As schools and universities move to online education due to COVID-19, education majors are navigating a change in student teaching requirements, among other certification adjustments.
Missouri typically requires student teachers spend 16 weeks in the classroom, with at least 15 consecutive days of full teaching responsibilities after observing another teacher and supervised practice. This is the final field-experience part of the teacher certification process.
This process is typically completed during an education major’s last semester, but many students in education programs only made it through half of their student teaching requirements before the switch to digital learning due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
”Student teaching — as well as other field experiences that enable future educators to work with students in learning environments — plays an important role in the development of a teacher,” Lincoln University Director of the Liberal Studies degree program Dr. Ayanna Shivers told The Missouri Times in an email. “It gives them opportunities to learn what teaching and management style works best for them, and it enables them to practice and hone their skills, prior to having their own classrooms.”
Missouri had expected to experience a shortage of teachers for the upcoming school year, according to a Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) report from late 2019. This report used data from previous years, such as education program enrollment numbers from 2018-2019, to estimate the teacher shortage for the 2020-2021 school year and found it likely that the state would experience a shortage of 5 percent.
Gov. Mike Parson signed an executive order in March allowing various departments to temporarily waive certain regulations, which permitted DESE to alter student teaching requirements for this year. Other certification changes include the waiving of internships and tests for upcoming graduates in an effort to keep the personnel shortages from being even more significant.
This executive order was based on a request submitted by DESE.
“Our Department of Elementary and Secondary Education knows how hard educator candidates have worked the last four years, so we quickly submitted the request to Governor Parson to waive these statutory requirements. This waiver helps ensure that there will not be a teacher shortage due to COVID-19,” communications coordinator Mallory McGowin told The Missouri Times in an email.
”To be honest, I do not believe that the altered requirements are going to impact the teacher shortage,” said Shivers. ”Remember, the student teachers were completing their programs in hopes of going into the classroom. I believe the waivers that have been implemented, for this semester only, will allow these students to stay on track to enter the field; instead of causing a delay, which would have further exacerbated the issue.”
Shivers also said the change will not hurt students on track to graduate.
“I can only base my responses on the student teachers that I am currently working with at Lincoln. I can honestly say that waiving their requirements will not be detrimental to them, as far as their ability to be certified. We require our student teachers to pass the content exam (MEGA) prior to going in the classroom. The majority of our students had received MEES evaluations that were on track to become certified.”
The MEGA exam is an evaluation by the Missouri Educator Gateway Assessments agency required for those seeking education certification. MEES is a similar test for school counselor candidates.
Shivers said the education department at her university is continuing to work with their students to finish their senior year.
“At Lincoln, we are helping prepare our students for their future classrooms, by changing the artifacts they were required to submit. Instead of basing them on their cooperating classroom, our students are now working on a mini-unit of instruction, classroom management plans, and communication plans for their classrooms in the fall. This is beneficial for our current group of students because about 80 percent of our students have accepted positions for the fall, and the remaining students have scheduled interviews.”
As of Tuesday afternoon, more than 3,000 Missourians have tested positive for coronavirus with 53 deaths.