Teacher Certification: What DMPS Does To Help 2,750 Educators Comply With State Law

Providing the best possible education to the more than 30,000 students who attend Des Moines Public Schools is our number one priority. And a big factor in meeting that goal is hiring the best available teachers for each and every classroom, and making sure they remain the best.

That’s one of the reasons our district is committed to providing educators with opportunities for professional development, and to bring new and improved learning techniques to the classroom. It’s one of the reasons more than 47% of our teachers have completed an advanced degree. And it’s why we take the issue of teacher licensure very seriously.

I am extremely proud of the effort by our 2,750 teachers, from the work they do in our classrooms to the work they do outside of the classroom, they are constantly improving their abilities. Which is why I am extremely concerned when misleading reports try to convey that this district and our teachers are not doing everything necessary to meet the requirements of the Iowa Department of Education (DE) and the Board of Educational Examiners (BoEE).

A newspaper article today claimed that our school district lacks a plan to avoid teacher licensure problems. Nothing could be further from the truth.

As Superintendent, there is nothing I can do about how a newspaper does its work. But, I can set the record straight. The following are the steps we take to make sure that not only every teacher, but also every administrator, coach and substitute teacher, is properly licensed under Iowa law:

  • No DMPS teacher is hired until they have the proper endorsement for the assignment they are given regardless of the time of year they are hired.
  • All DMPS principals and supervisors are regularly trained on and reminded of the importance of having the correct licensure and to direct any questions to our Human Resources department.
  • All DMPS principals and supervisors meet face to face with our Human Resources staff each spring, when staff assignments for the upcoming year are made, and inform us of any changes so that the appropriate certification can be verified.
  • All DMPS principals are sent a final staff list for their building prior to the start of each school year in order to make any final changes which are then checked against certification requirements.
  • Prior to an educator transferring to a new position, their license is checked to ensure that they have the proper endorsements; transfers are denied if someone does not meet this step.
  • Like every Iowa school district, DMPS also goes through an extensive review by the Board of Educational Examiners and Iowa Department of Education in October. Every school in the state is reviewed for licensure errors by the BoEE at that time.
  • During orientation for new DMPS teachers, we stress they must have a current license at all times and teachers must be endorsed for the assignment they are given. If they are assigned even one class outside of their endorsed area, they are asked to have a conversation with their principal to correct the situation, and if that is not successful, to contact our Human Resource office.
  • DMPS keeps a data base of all teacher licenses and when their licenses are due. Teachers are reminded at least 30 days in advance that their license is about to expire. At that time, we double check that they are certified for the class they are currently assigned. Every month we have on average of at least 25 teachers who are near to having an expired license. This doesn’t include the hundreds of teachers who have renewed in a timely manner and whose license has been updated in our system. When a teacher’s license expires, they are placed on unpaid administrative leave until they have resolved the issue; a teacher can ultimately be fired for failing to renew a license.
  • DMPS is in regular contact with the Board of Educational Examiners regarding licensure issues, which can be more complicated in our district than most others in Iowa because of the wide range of educational programs and choices available to students.

That’s a plan, and a plan that works. Last year, one certified classroom teacher in Des Moines – or less than 0.04% of our certified teachers – was not properly licensed. You deserve to know the truth. And the truth is we take the issue of licensure very seriously, and have a comprehensive plan to assure that we will always be home to a great group of teachers.

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