BOSTON — FOX25 Investigates uncovered a loophole that allows educators across the state to work for decades on licenses meant for new teachers.
The new findings come a day after an exclusive FOX25 investigation first revealed hundreds of teachers working for Boston Public Schools without a proper license – a crisis in the classroom that caught city school leaders totally unaware when FOX25 told them about the problem.
In Massachusetts, the state Department of Elementary and Secondary Education licenses all public school teachers.
But State Education Commissioner Mitchell Chester, who acknowledged FOX25’s investigation at Tuesday’s state school board meeting, said it’s not his agency’s job to be the watchdog for teacher licensing.
“We rely on our districts paying attention to issues around licensure, around whether or not the people they employ are appropriately prepared,” said Chester. “But we are looking at whether we should be stepping up our role in terms of monitoring that or not.”
As the state weighs whether to crack down on teachers without proper licenses, FOX25 Investigates learned that a disturbing loophole in state law allows teachers across Massachusetts to work for 30 years without a professional teaching license – by obtaining six separate preliminary licenses, which are meant for new teachers.
In Massachusetts, new teachers can apply for “preliminary” licenses, which are valid for no more than five years. After that, educators are supposed to seek more training as they work toward a professional license.
But state education officials have admitted that some teachers are instead seeking a new preliminary license in another subject when the first preliminary license expires.
Chester told FOX25 Investigates he is now seeking to close that loophole in a proposal presented to the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education Tuesday.
The board is now accepting public comment on the proposal to limit teachers with preliminary licenses – no matter how many they hold – to a five-year maximum.
But state school board member Margaret McKenna told FOX25 more licensing loopholes exist.
“Preliminary licenses given to individuals who have no practicum experience – in other words, they’ve never been in a classroom; they’ve never been supervised by teacher – is really, I think, a problem,” said McKenna. “Right now the regulations allow if you have a bachelor’s degree and you can pass the test, you can be hired.”
McKenna said the state should require classroom and child development training before handing out licenses to new teachers.
“We can't do enough for our children and we've raised the bar in expectations in Massachusetts, which is I think a great thing and this is one of the loopholes that's left,” said McKenna.
FOX25 Investigates reported Monday that nearly 200 Boston school teachers are blowing past state deadlines to obtain professional licenses – including a Boston city councilor who campaigned on improving education.
Annissa Essaibi-George worked as a teacher at East Boston High School for more than a decade before she joined the Boston City Council last year but never obtained a professional teaching license.
Essaibi-George, who held a single preliminary license during her time teaching in Boston, according to state records, has said she didn’t know about her licensing issue until contacted by FOX25.
FOX25 Investigates found many Boston teachers failed to obtain proper licenses, including at least a dozen educators at exam schools, such as John D. O’Bryan School of Mathematics & Science and Boston Latin School.
Boston teachers without proper licenses also work at some of the lowest performing schools, including Brighton High School, James P. Timilty Middle School and East Boston High School.
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