Is Your School of Education in Compliance with Federal State Authorization Regulations?
As of July 1, 2020 all universities were required to comply with 2019 federal state authorization regulations. Among the requirements in these complex regulations is one related to all programs that fulfill educational requirements of a profession that requires licensure or certification. Included among these programs are those in schools and colleges of education—for teachers, psychologists, school counselors and more. Every university with such programs is required to make public, for each state, whether the program does or does not meet such requirements. For example, a special education teacher preparation program at a university in Florida must disclose whether its requirements would lead to certification in Minnesota.
MSU determined to provide a university-wide compilation of program requirements in relation to state certification requirements rather than a college by college compilation. Who was involved? What is the utility of doing it this way?
At MSU, compliance with this requirement took a village and included substantial support from university-level offices. First, the General Counsel’s office and Registrar’s office worked with administrators from across campus to develop a plan for compliance with both these regulations and also the similar reporting about online programs required by NC-SARA. This group identified the sequence of necessary work and set out due dates for various pieces. Second, staff from the General Counsel’s office and Registrar’s office met as needed with individuals from colleges, in addition to continuing to meet with the ad hoc group that created the process. In response to a request from colleges, the university also took care of all the relevant notifications to current students, which was a great help.
Second, within our College, it helped that one of us (Kristine Bowman) has a legal background and immediately recognized this project as a 50 state survey of law where attention to detail would be incredibly important. Although non-lawyers can do this work, the actual hands-on research speaks directly to the skill set of lawyers and librarians. Bowman reached out to her former legal research assistant, then in library school (Kaitlin Klemp) who had previously participated in a 50 state survey for Bowman. Kelly Hodges became College’s project manager, bringing her deep expertise about educator certification and licensure to the table.
Third, the College of Education partners with seven colleges across campus to deliver teacher preparation program routes. Because we were able to put together the right team within our College to do this work, we offered to shoulder most of the weight of this project for our partner colleges, as the obligation arose from their affiliation with us and participation in educator preparation. As one can imagine, they were incredibly grateful.
How did MSU go about gathering information on how your college of education programs would meet certification requirements in other states?
The most consistent method of gathering data for a survey of this extent is to utilize the official website of each state’s legislature. We avoided subscription-based databases to ensure access to information for all persons interested in duplicating this research. Once the appropriate statute for teacher licensure was located, we evaluated it for relevance and sufficiency. To cross-check the state’s laws, we visited each state’s Board of Education website. This ensured currency of the standard and provided context.
When evaluating a statute, we first looked to see if a program currently accredited by the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation (CAEP) or the Teacher Education Accreditation Council (TEAC), or a university accredited by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation, automatically fulfills requirements. This is the case for many states. If specific courses are required by a state, we cross-checked this with the College’s program requirements and extracurricular offerings. Some states require state-sponsored training on history, culture, and ethics that must be taken before licensure. We also determined if the program delivery method (in-person, hybrid, online) is acceptable for certification. All additional requirements were recorded for further examination.
Fifty-state surveys are not as daunting as they may initially seem – with succinct methodology and organized recordkeeping, all that is needed is time.
What advice would you have for other colleges or schools of education in complying with this component of the regulation?
Although some aspects of our network for this project were latent, all the connections were there. The task drew on those latent connections, but also strengthened them. In that sense, though it was onerous in the way many regulatory compliance activities are, it both deepened and demonstrated the strengths of the people in the network, which included permanent and non-permanent employees, staff, and faculty of different stripes. This is good for the institution, including being good for its students. It might have been luck that the network connections were all there at MSU in 2020, but that does not have to mean that only lucky places can do this.
Kristine Bowman is associate dean at Michigan State University College of Education, professor of education policy, and professor of law.
Kelly Hodges is director of accreditation, certification, and experiential education at Michigan State University College of Education.
Kaitlin Klemp holds a J.D. from Michigan State Law School and an M.S. in library and information science from Wayne State University.