The only organization dedicated solely to helping state boards advance equity and excellence in public education.

Michigan Takes Bold Steps to Improve Early Learning by Narrowing Teacher Licensure Bands


Alexandria, VA — Teaching young children requires deep knowledge of what preschoolers think, how they behave, and why. A new NASBE analysis explains how Michigan jettisoned its broad elementary teaching licenses in favor of preK-3 and 3-6 licenses that will better equip new teachers with developmentally appropriate knowledge and skills.

Twenty-three states offer licenses focused on early childhood, but many also offer broader certifications for grades K-6 or 8, or 1-6 that give prospective teachers and hiring school districts greater leeway in placement. “When states set broad bands for teaching certificates, teacher preparation programs place more emphasis on upper elementary grades than lower elementary grades because the content is perceived as more difficult,” said Richard Lower, director of preschool and out of school time learning in the Michigan Department of Education’s Office of Great Start. “There is an assumption that teachers already know the content and can teach the lower grades.”

Michigan’s narrower teacher certification bands will help address that issue. The new certifications, which the Michigan State Board of Education adopted in November 2018, bifurcate the previous elementary license into one for lower elementary (preK-3) and another for upper elementary (grades 3-6). The state embarked on this work as member of NASBE’s Early Childhood Education Network, in which members of a stakeholder group met to advance early education policies and build community engagement and collaboration.

With support from NASBE, the Michigan group established a strategy to support early childhood workforce and teacher licensure efforts, including surveying educators on the proposed changes. Feedback from the surveys and meetings across the state yielded insight into where adjustments in the licensure structure were needed, such as giving more flexibility to small schools. The department’s investment in developing a graphic to illustrate the new licensing structure helped build support among the public and other key stakeholders like deans of schools of education.

Michigan leaders observe lessons learned. “You have to take time to get clarity of what the charge is, what the intent is, and what the goals are,” said Lower. Colleague Kelli Cassaday, an early literacy consultant for the department, noted the critical role the state board played. Having early childhood standards and professional standards under one board enabled higher education and preK-12 to convene in one room to set “common language and expectations for first year students,” she said. Multiple feedback loops and ensuring that diverse stakeholders adopted common definitions and terms were also important to the success of the process, they said.

Read and share “Michigan Narrows Licensure Bands to Improve Early Learning.”

For 60 years, NASBE has served as the only membership organization for state boards of education. A nonpartisan, nonprofit organization, NASBE elevates state board members’ voices in national and state policymaking, facilitates the exchange of informed ideas, and supports members in advancing equity and excellence in public education for students of all races, genders, and circumstances. Learn more at www.nasbe.org.

###




Related Content



Featured Items

Image Credit: iStock i

Involving Teachers in State Education Governance

A growing number of states boards of education see the advantages of involving teachers in policymaking decisions. Many have created a place for a current teacher to serve on the board.
Image Credit: iStock i

States Make Plans for Reopening

In anticipation of the 2020–21 school year, states have been creating and updating guidance for district and school reopening plans. Several trends emerge.
Image Credit: iStock Photo i

Remote Learning in Early Childhood

If online learning is not designed with early childhood in mind, many children will not be able to build a strong foundation for their education and will fail to establish the structure and routines that learning requires.

Upcoming Events

From the States

  • Measures of SEL and School Climate in California

    CORE Districts plumb the possibilities of using holistic measures to improve schools.

  • Kansas State Board Confronts Youth Vaping

    The usage of vaping products among middle school students has increased at alarming rates. Federal and state policymakers are addressing this crisis, including in Kansas, where the state board of education acted quickly to engage stakeholders on curbing youth vaping.