Future MU Education graduates face higher GPA requirements for certification

However, Missouri accepts teachers from other states with different standards for teacher certification.
“They are trying to set high standards, trying to have excellent teachers in the classroom,” said Associate Dean of Academic Affairs in the College of Education John Lannin of the new GPA requirements. Courtesy of College of Education

Beginning Aug. 1, Missouri education students will have to meet a higher GPA requirement to earn their teaching certification. College of Education graduates will now have to achieve a 2.75 total GPA as well as a 3.0 in their content area and College of Education courses, according to new requirements from the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education.

This policy will not affect seniors who graduate before August. The current GPA standards are a 2.5 overall GPA and a 2.75 in students’ content areas.

“They are trying to set high standards, trying to have excellent teachers in the classroom,” said John Lannin, associate dean for academic affairs in the College of Education. “That’s the same goal we have.”

Students must complete a certain number of credit hours for their content area outside of the college, and some take additional upper-level courses as electives. However, Lannin worries that the new state requirements may inhibit students’ development in their content area.

“Now the question becomes, as a teacher, if my GPA is close to 3.0 [and] I’d like to take this additional course because it would enhance my knowledge,” Lannin said, “but if I do and it drops my GPA down, now I can’t get certified. Now [the policy] is doing just the opposite of what you’d like to have it do. You’d like to have it build someone’s knowledge up, but it could be discouraging some people from taking additional courses, which is not the design of it.”

If a student earns above a C-minus in a course and that grade lowers their GPA below the 2.75 or 3.0 requirements, they will not have the option of replacing the grade.

“Some students at another institution can retake a class multiple times until they get an A to raise their GPA,” Director of Teacher Education Laurie Kingsley said. “[At MU,] you can replace a grade only once, that’s the first thing, and you can’t do it if you have above a C-minus.”

Grades vary between institutions and even between courses taught by different instructors at the same university, Kingsley said.

“You need to have a strong understanding of your content knowledge, no doubt about that, but again, often we’ve had students who have had very high performances on state content assessments,” Lannin said. “But our students have had lower GPAs than people at other institutions in the state. There’s not a direct correlation between content knowledge and GPA by institution.”

To enter the College of Education’s Phase II program, which students typically apply for before their junior year, students must have a minimum GPA of 2.75.

“Our folks already graduate with pretty high GPAs,” Lannin said. “I’m concerned with those people who end up as borderline cases and they aren’t able to get certified because of one strange thing that happened in one semester.”

An unintended consequence of this policy is that it might disadvantage first-generation college students who might struggle navigating courses or students who don’t have the financial resources to retake classes, Lannin said.

“We know that just because they may have gotten an abysmal GPA their freshman or sophomore year, this doesn’t mean that they wouldn’t possibly be a fantastic teacher,” Kingsley said. “Life sometimes happens.”

Missouri accepts teacher certification from other states, even though standards and requirements for certifications vary. The minimum GPA requirement for non-Missouri graduates is currently a 2.5, according to the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education website.

“We could be disadvantaging our local students, our native students to the state,” Lannin said. “And we fill this pipeline, because of shortages, we hire people from other states in these certification areas. So, that’s another unintended consequence that could occur with this [policy].”

For the 2016-17 school year, Missouri schools face teacher shortages in disciplines such as foreign languages, sciences and special education, according to the U.S. Department of Education.

“We’re turning people away who want to be teachers and who are hopeful to be teachers,” Kingsley said. “We’re turning them away because they got a 2.9 in their science content. And now we’re taking people who aren’t really content experts and hoping they can fill these spots with provisional teaching licenses. It could become a real nightmare if it continues in this way in terms of who’s going to teach these classes.”

The College of Education has communicated with the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education about specific scenarios and challenges associated with the new policy, Lannin said.

“Typically, the people who work in the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, they bring these situations to the State School Board,” Lannin said. “My sense is that they’re going to try and deal with this sometime this spring.”

Lannin did not list any specific response the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education has given, but said that they listen to the College of Education’s concerns.

“We’re just trying to get feedback about how we deal with certain situations and they’re pretty understanding,” Lannin said. “They collaborate with us. They work with us. They understand the situation that we’re in.”

Edited by Kyle LaHucik | klahucik@themaneater.com

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