Senate Bill 2423
Creates performance-based pathway to licensure and promotes additional pathways to earning supplemental endorsements.
Dennis DeBar, Jr.
Conferees failed to produce a conference report amenable to a majority of conferees by the March 28 deadline. SB 2423 is now dead. However, the supplemental endorsement provision of SB 2423 has been added to the final version of HB 1388, which was signed into law on March 23. This provision will open a test-based pathway to earning a supplemental endorsement for teachers in certain subject areas.
Senate Bill 2423 was initially intended solely to expand options for teachers to add supplemental endorsements to their teaching license. It has since been amended by the House beyond the scope of the original bill to allow the Mississippi Department of Education (MDE) to change entrance requirements to educator preparation programs (EPPs) and create a performance-based pathway to licensure—both of which were the intention of HB 1059, which has since died. We will explain both aspects of SB 2423, as amended, below:
Under SB 2423, MDE would be required to establish standards for supplemental endorsements that “allow as many options as possible to receive a supplemental endorsement.” These options would include, but not be limited to, “taking additional coursework or earning at least the minimum qualifying score or higher” on the relevant subject assessment. Currently, teachers must take a certain amount of semester hours in the relevant content area to earn a supplemental endorsement. SB 2423 would essentially open a test-based pathway to earning a supplemental endorsement.
However, SB 2423 stipulates that the test-based pathway would not apply to certain subject areas. These include, but are not limited to, special education, elementary education, and early/primary education. This may impact the impact of implementing a test-based pathway, particularly if MDE chooses to expand on this list of subject areas.
Performance-based pathway to licensure
As amended, SB 2423 would adjust criteria for teacher licensure in a number of ways, including the addition of a performance-based route for bypassing subject matter competency requirements, allowing the State Board of Education to set qualifying scores and a minimum GPA for licensure, and changes to the Teach Mississippi Institute (TMI). For a full explanation of these changes, see our analysis of HB 1059, which contains the same language as the new amendment to SB 2423.
The most significant change under the amendment to SB 2423 would be allowing certain veteran educators to bypass subject matter competency requirements in order to earn licensure via the Traditional Route or Alternate Route. Currently, state law requires “satisfactory completion of nationally administered examinations of achievement” (37-3-2(6)(a)(iii) while MDE regulations clarify that teacher candidates must pass a content area assessment to earn licensure. The amendment would enshrine the content area assessment clearly in state law but would also allow teacher candidates in both the Traditional Route and Alternate Route to bypass it should they meet the following criteria:
- A documented attempt to take a content area assessment
- Completion of an EPP
- A minimum of three years of “relevant teaching experience in the content area with performance-based evidence of educator effectiveness”
In effect, the amendment to SB 2423 would allow teacher candidates who have failed their content area assessment to earn licensure anyway, as long as they have documented evidence of effective teaching over at least a three-year period. Importantly, the amendment leaves the definition of “performance-based evidence of educator effectiveness” undefined, putting the onus on MDE to determine the relevant rules and regulations for demonstrating effectiveness. However, depending on whether a teacher is attempting to earn traditional or alternate certification, these provisions could have very different impacts.
The amendment as it is currently written will have the greatest effect on teachers who completed a traditional teacher education program but have not passed their content area assessment. Currently, these teachers may teach up to three years on a special, nonrenewable license but cannot continue working beyond that point unless they pass the content assessment. The amendment would open a pathway for these teachers to convert their special, nonrenewable license (the only one they qualify for without passing the content assessment) to a standard, five-year renewable license. The amendment would not allow traditional route teachers to immediately earn a standard license if they cannot pass the content assessment as they must teach at least three years to qualify.
Teachers attempting to earn alternate route licensure must pass the content area assessment to enter an approved alternate route program. There is no current alternate route pathway that does not require admission to an alternate route program. Because test passage is an entrance requirement to alternate route programs, alternate route teachers cannot both bypass the program entrance requirement and “complet[e] an approved teacher education program” to qualify to bypass the test for licensure purposes. As a result, it is entirely unclear what alternate route teachers this provision would help since the law does not clearly remove MDE’s authority to require assessment passage prior to admission.
We believe it is possible that the amendment’s author actually intended the amendment to have greater impacts on both traditional and alternate route teachers. However, the two sections of the Mississippi code this language amends to introduce performance-based licensure–37-3-2(6)(a-b)–are awkwardly written at present. Currently, the law dealing with traditional route licensure, 37-3-2(6)(a), mandates that “Applicants for a standard license shall submit to the department…” and then proceeds to list both required documentation (37-3-2(6)(a)(i-iv)) and requirements for admission to educator preparation programs (37-3-2(6)(a)(v)). Furthermore, rather than having its own item, the requirement for elementary educators to pass a reading instruction assessment is oddly appended to 37-3-2(6)(a)(ii) about completion of an EPP. Section 37-3-2(6)(b) also has problematic grammatical structure and leaves much to interpretation.
This amendment only adds to the confusion with its own awkward structure. In order to best reflect what the author of the amendment intends, the original code and the bill will require some work, should SB 2423 go to conference.
On March 9, the House passed SB 2423 as amended. The amendments include a reverse repealer. The bill now goes to the Senate for concurrence, though the Senate will almost certainly invite conference due to the reverse repealer.
On March 16, the Senate voted to invite conference on SB 2423 as amended by the House. This was expected due to the reverse repealer, though it is likely that conferees may make additional changes to the bill due to problems with the bill’s language noted above.
On March 17, the Senate named Education Committee Chairman Dennis DeBar, Education Committee Vice-Chairman David Blount, and Senator John Polk as conferees. The House has yet to name conferees.
Conferees failed to produce a conference report amenable to a majority of conferees by the March 28 deadline. SB 2423 is now dead.
However, the supplemental endorsement provision of SB 2423 has been added to the final version of HB 1388, which was signed into law on March 23. This provision will open a test-based pathway to earning a supplemental endorsement for teachers in certain subject areas.