High school students in Minnesota are at risk of losing college-level classes due to new teaching requirements

AP-classesMinnesota high school students are at risk of losing access to college-level classes due to new requirements that their teachers have a master’s degree or at least graduate-level credits in those subjects.

A growing number of students rely on dual-credit classes to earn college credits to cut their future higher education costs. But hundreds of high school educators could soon be barred from teaching the classes, forcing students to take courses at local colleges or universities, or forgo them all together.

The problem arose because the Higher Learning Commission in June updated its standards for college instructors. The commission decided that college instructors should hold a master’s degree in the field they teach or have a master’s degree in another field and 18 credits in the field they teach by September 2017.

That means Rebecca Young may need to go back to school if she wants to continue teaching algebra for college credit at Irondale High School. Despite holding a master’s degree and having completed other graduate-level work, she may not meet the standards.

“I don’t mind going back to school if there are courses that will help me teach,” Young said. “To take classes that are not going to improve what I do, to do it just for a credential, I’m not too excited about that.”

Dual-credit classes were taken by 24,731 Minnesota students in 2014–a 23 percent increase over five years.

HLC President Barbara Gellman-Danley said the group is trying to ensure dual-credit courses are taught at the highest level, and that schools will have time to comply. She said teachers should relish the opportunity to deepen their knowledge.

“You are never too old or too busy to forward your education,” she said.

Minnesota Education Commissioner Brenda Cassellius is worried that it will become tough for administrators to find teachers for college-level high school classes.

“We already have a teacher shortage. … It will exacerbate those problems,” Cassellius said. “It’s not like teachers have the money or the time to go back to school and take another 18 credits.”

Wayne Wormstadt, superintendent of Windom Area Schools, said his district has six dual-credit teachers, but only one is likely to meet the new qualifications. Without the easy access to college-level courses, his students would have to travel more than 20 miles to the nearest college or university.

“We work so hard to offer these courses,” Wormstadt said.

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