Tiered licensure

In 2017, the state Legislature approved a new way to license teachers in Minnesota. 

This tiered system is meant to be less confusing, but the new law is still complicated at best. Read and download our infographic below for a streamlined explanation of the new licenses and their requirements.

Tiered licensure infographic
1 pg., PDF, 152 KB

Our Education Issues Specialist Sara Ford also outlines the changes via video:

Important transition information

The new tiered licensing law took effect on July 1, 2018. Over the course of the 2018-19 academic year, the transition to that new system will take place. Below are important details related to the transition to the new system. 


  • Early in 2018, the Professional Educator Licensing and Standards Board (PELSB) notified teachers that it extended five-year standard teaching licenses by one year. However, PELSB’s email list for current license holders is not entirely up-to-date, so some of our members did not get and will not get the notice. 

Extensions for different license/permission types

  • All five-year standard license holders have had their licenses extended by one year. Licenses that were going to expire in 2018 are now extended to 2019, and teachers CANNOT renew until their expiration year. Teachers whose licenses were set to expire in 2019 are now extended to 2020, and so on. 
  • On the license look-up tool on PELSB’s website, there is a “license” tab and a “details” tab. Information about the extended deadline can be found under the “details” tab. The “license” tab shows a PDF of the original license, and the PELSB was not able to generate 50,000 of those and replace the image under that tab. If you have a member who needs an updated PDF copy of his or her license showing the new, extended expiration date, have them contact the PELSB at pelsb@state.mn.us.
  • Teachers who taught last year (2017-18) on a standard one-year license with an expiration date of June 30, 2018, have had their licenses extended one year also.
  • Teachers who had variances or non-licensed community expert permissions in place as of Jan. 1, 2018 had those permissions extended by a year automatically. They will expire on June 30, 2019. 

How current license and permission holders will transition

  • All standard five-year license holders will continue teaching with their standard five-year license this fall. Those who are up for renewal in 2019 will convert to Tier 4 at the time of renewal. All others, those set to renew in 2020, 2021, 2022 and 2023, will have their licenses converted to Tier 4 licenses on July 1, 2019. The new Tier 4 licenses will have the same, extended expiration dates they have now.  
  • All educators who had one-year limited licenses last year who did not apply for a standard five-year license before July 1, 2018 had their one-year limited licenses extended by one year. They may continue to teach on their limited licenses for the 2018-19 academic year, and will be placed into the new tiered system before the fall of 2019. 
  • All educators who had a non-licensed community expert permission that was in place as of Jan. 1, 2018 had those permissions automatically extended by one year, and can teach on that same permission for the 2018-19 academic year. They will need to be placed into the tiered system to teach in the fall of 2019 or beyond. 

The gap between variances and out-of-field permissions

  • At the start of the 2018-19 school year, Minnesota school districts were in a difficult position because the old variance language was deleted from law, so new variances were no longer available, and the new rules that introduce the out-of-field permission were not yet in place. Because of this, Education Minnesota worked with the Minnesota School Board Association to come up with a model agreement that could be used to protect the rights of a teacher assigned to teach on multiple tiers. Since the rules have now been adopted, there should no longer be teachers working on multiple tiers at the same time. Any district that hired someone under the terms of the model agreement should now be seeking the appropriate out-of-field permission for that teacher. Tier 4 teachers teaching on out-of-field permissions will be considered Tier 4 teachers for the entirety of their assignments. 

What the extended expiration dates mean for renewal and for the accumulation of CEUs

  • Teachers with standard full-professional five-year licenses that have been extended are wondering whether or not CEUs that will be six years old by the time they renew will still be valid. The answer is yes.  The system is set up to go six years back through the 2023 cycle and then revert back to five years.  
    • If your license was set to expire in 2018 but is extended to 2019, you can renew in 2019 with CEUs as old as January 2013.
    • If your license was set to expire in 2019 but is extended to 2020, you can renew in 2020 with CEUs as old as January 2014.
    • If your license was set to expire in 2020 but is extended to 2021, you can renew in 2021 with CEUs as old as January 2015.
    • If your license was set to expire in 2021 but is extended to 2022, you can renew in 2022 with CEUs as old as January 2016. 
    • If your license was set to expire in 2022 but is extended to 2023, you can renew in 2023 with CEUs as old as January 2017. 
  • After that, everyone will have cycled through. So when applicants go to renew in 2024, they can only use CEUs as old as January 2019.  When applicants renew in 2025, they can only use CEUs as old as January 2020, and so on. 

How does Education Minnesota advise members to prepare for their renewal cycle?

  • Our advice for all standard full-professional five-year license holders is to get your 125 hours ready before your extended expiration date, but don’t get additional CEUs before your extended expiration date (unless you want them for reasons other than licensure renewal), as they won’t be counted in the next cycle.  

Changes to topics required by law for renewal, and prorated PD hour requirements by tier

  • An addition: Cultural competency training has been added to the list of requirements for licensure renewal. The first five-year cohort that will have to show they have had cultural competency training is the cohort that will be renewing in 2020.
  • Two deletions: Technology and accommodations/modifications have both been deleted from the list of requirements for licensure renewal, but that change does not take effect immediately. The cohort that is renewing in 2019 will still have to demonstrate that they have had those trainings, but after 2019, teachers will no longer need technology or accommodations/modifications training for the purpose of license renewal.  
Cohort renewing in 2019 Cohorts renewing in 2020 and beyond
Growth in best practice (reflective statement that is part of teacher development and evaluation) Growth in best practice (reflective statement that is part of teacher development and evaluation)
Accommodations/modifications Cultural competency
Technology Practices to meet the needs of English language learners
Practices to meet the needs of English language learners PBIS training
PBIS training Reading preparation training
Reading preparation training Mental illness training
Mental illness training Suicide prevention training
Suicide prevention training  

Continuing education committees will only be working with Tier 3 and Tier 4 license holders for the purpose of license renewal. Tier 3 licenses are three-year licenses. Those members will have to show 75 hours of professional development at the time of renewal. Tier 4 licenses are five-year licenses. Those members will have to show 125 hours.

Important transition information
3 pgs., PDF, 178 KB


Q: Are the rules guiding the new law adopted yet?

A: No. Estimates range from between late September to sometime in December 2018. This means that for now, we are operating with a law that has been enacted but for which the rules are not yet in place. 

Q: Variances are no longer available, and out-of-field permissions are not yet available. What can districts and teachers do when the need to teach/assign out of licensure area is present?

A: Teachers who had a variance in place as of Jan. 1, 2018 had those permissions extended for an additional year, and they can continue to teach on those permissions for the 2018-19 academic year.  No new variances have been granted since that time, and no more will be coming. Taking the place of the variance will be a new permission, called an out-of-field permission. It will not be available until PELSB has adopted rules. Because of this gap, Education Minnesota has worked with MSBA to develop a model agreement that can be used in cases in which a five-year license holder is being asked to teach for part of his or her assignment outside of licensure area. To do this, the teacher and district will have to apply for a T1 or T2 license in that new field. To protect the member’s rights, we advise that members only enter into this agreement if the district is willing to sign off on the model agreement. Once the rules are adopted, all standard five-year licensed holders (soon to be T3 or T4 teachers) who are teaching on an out-of-field permission will be treated as T3 or T4 teachers for the entirety of their assignment. If you have questions, contact your field staff.  

Q: If a variance was in place by Jan. 1, 2018, and was therefore extended through the 2018-19 school year, and the teacher moves to a new district, is that original variance still in place because of the extension?

A: No. Variances are limited to the district or charter school that made the original application. Nothing in the board’s vote to extend variances that were in place as of Jan. 1, 2018 by one year supersedes that limitation.  So if a teacher was working last year in District A on a variance that was extended to 2019, but that teacher moves to a new district, that variance is no longer in effect, and no new variances can be granted. 

Q: Is an individual who has a Tier 2, 3 or 4 license, but who is teaching under a Tier 1 license in the teacher bargaining unit? 

A: Yes, a Tier 2, 3 or 4 license brings an individual within the definition of a teacher under PELRA. After the licensure rules are in place, Tier 2, 3 and 4 licensed teachers will be able to acquire out-of-field permissions (formerly known as variances) to teach outside of their licensure area, which will eliminate the need for a Tier 2, 3 or 4 licensed teacher to add a Tier 1 license. The temporary addition of a Tier 1 license and assignment to that licensure area does not affect employee’s status as a member of the teacher bargaining unit. Teachers temporarily teaching under a Tier 1 license should be treated the same as a teacher teaching under an out-of-field permission.

Q: What happens to community experts?
A: All people with non-licensed community expert waivers that were in place as of Jan. 1, 2018 had those permissions automatically extended for one year. So, they can teach on those same permissions for the duration of the 2018-19 academic year. After that, they will need to transition to the new tiered licensure system. 
Q: What will happen to community experts who do not have bachelor degrees?
A: As the law reads now, unless they are teaching in a career and technical education or career pathways position, they cannot be given a Tier 1 license.  
Q: Can Tier 1 teachers be organized?
A: Yes. Just like community experts now can be organized. IMPORTANT NOTE: Any teacher teaching on a Tier 1 license for a partial assignment because the out-of-field permission is not yet in place, should be doing so under the terms of the model agreement, signed by both the local and district.  That agreement protects that member’s position in the bargaining unit.  
Q: When we refer to Tier 1 and Tier 2 teachers as non-probationary, what does that mean?
A: Tier 1 and Tier 2 teachers do not have continuing contract rights. While working under these licenses, they are not subject to the statutory three-year probationary period. Tier 1 and 2 teachers do not have probationary teacher rights under the continuing contract or tenure statute. IMPORTANT NOTE: Any teacher teaching on a Tier 1 license because the out-of-field permission is not yet in place, should be doing so under the terms of the model agreement, signed by both the local and district.  That agreement clarifies that teacher’s continuing contract status.  

For Tier 2 license-holders who transition to a Tier 3 license, two years of a teacher’s years of service can count towards the three-year probationary period.
Q: What stops a principal from offering Tier 1 teachers more money to incentivize those teachers to stay out of the bargaining unit? Additionally, is there anything to prevent a district from applying for a Tier 1 license for a current teacher with a Tier 2, 3 or 4 license in an attempt to remove them from the bargaining unit? 
A: If a teacher qualifies for a higher tier license, neither the statute nor the license application process allow a school district to hire that teacher as a Tier 1 teacher. Minnesota Statute §122A.181 requires a district to demonstrate that it was unable to hire an acceptable teacher with a Tier 2, 3 or 4 license for the position. If the teacher the school district wants to hire as a Tier 1 licensed teacher is eligible for a Tier 2, 3 or 4, the school district will be unable to show that it was unable to hire a Tier 2, 3 or 4 teacher. 

When a district posts a position and finds a person they want to hire, the district sends a link starting the licensure application process to the applicant. The applicant then fills out the PELSB application, answering questions about credentials, and the application form funnels them to the highest tier for which they qualify. Once the applicant section is submitted, the district will then complete the process of applying for a license for that applicant. Our hope is that this mechanism will prevent any applicant from being hired at any tier other than the highest tier for which they qualify.  
Q: How can our locals deal with the potential workload issues caused by increased mentoring responsibilities?
A: They can bargain for compensation for mentoring duties. Under the current rule draft, mentoring can only be assigned with the voluntary agreement of the teacher doing the mentoring, and only T3 and T4 teachers can mentor. 
Q: Are Tier 2 teachers at-will employees since they are not covered by 122A.40 and .41?
A: No. As members of the teacher bargaining unit, any discipline issued to a Tier 2 teacher is subject to the discipline and grievance and arbitration provisions in the collective bargaining agreement. However, because Tier 2 licenses require school district approval, Tier 2 teachers could be released at the end of their teaching contract.
Q: Can a current five-year standard license holder be moved to a Tier 3 license at the time of transition if their last summative evaluation placed them on an improvement plan?

A: No. Statute dictates and all teachers who held a five-year standard license as of July 1, 2018 will automatically be transitioned into Tier 4. This transition will take place at the point of renewal for those renewing in 2019, and on July 1, 2019 for those whose licenses expire in 2020, 2021, 2022 or 2023. 

Q: Can the PELSB refuse to renew a Tier 4 license because at the time of renewal the teacher’s last summative evaluation placed them on improvement plan? 
A: No. Minnesota Statutes §122A.184 requires that for the PELSB to issue a Tier 4 license, the candidate must demonstrate that his/her most recent summative teacher evaluation did not result in placing or otherwise keeping the teacher in an improvement process.  This is only mentioned as a requirement in the initial issuance of a license and is not applied to license renewal which is governed by Minnesota Statute §122A.187.     

Q: If a district puts a teacher on an improvement plan outside of the evaluation process, does that still cause a problem when that teacher wants to move up in tiers?
A: The statute only says that there is a problem if the last summative evaluation resulted in the teacher being put on an improvement plan. So we say no.  
Q: What will the renewal requirements look like? 
A: The 125 clock-hour option remains in place, and local committees will still be making the recommendation for renewal.  We know that renewal at Tier 3 and Tier 4 levels will include the following: 

  • Growth in best practice 
  • Cultural competency training 
  • Practices to meet needs of English language learners 
  • (TDE can satisfy the first three bullets here)
  • PBIS training 
  • Reading preparation 
  • Mental illness training 
  • Suicide prevention training

Note 1: Cultural competency training is new, and the first cohort that will have to demonstrate that they have had this training is the cohort renewing in 2020. The cohort renewing in 2019 will NOT have to demonstrate that they have had cultural competency training.  

Note 2: The technology requirement is no longer in law. The last cohort that will have to show that they have had technology training is the 2019 cohort. After that, the training will no longer be required for re-licensure. 
Q: Where do we find the licensure shortage areas as defined by MDE? 

A: Shortage areas for the 2017-18 school year:

  • Agricultural Education
  • Business Education
  • Chemistry
  • Communication Technology Careers
  • Computers/Keyboarding
  • Construction Careers
  • Dance and Theatre Arts
  • English as a Second Language
  • Family and Consumer Science
  • Library Media Specialist
  • Manufacturing Careers
  • Mathematics
  • Medical Careers
  • Middle Level Science (Grades 5-8)
  • Parent and Family Education
  • Physics
  • School Psychologist
  • Special Education Academic and Behavioral Strategist 
  • Autism Spectrum Disorders 
  • Blind or Visually Impaired Deaf and Hard of Hearing (Oral-Aural Deaf Education)
  • Developmental and Adapted Physical Education 
  • Developmental Disabilities 
  • Early Childhood Emotional Behavioral Disorders 
  • Learning Disabilities 
  • Speech-Language Pathologists 
  • Teacher Coordinator: Work-Based Learning 
  • Technology Education 
  • World Languages and Cultures

Q: Can Tier 1 teachers participate in our QComp plan?

A: We are asking MDE for their interpretation on this, but our position is that according to statute, the agreement to implement QComp is between the exclusive representative of teachers on behalf of our bargaining unit and the district. Tier 1 teachers have been stripped from our unit and therefore cannot participate in QComp without our agreement.

We believe that the district and union could reach mutual agreement to include Tier 1 teachers in QComp, just as we do with community experts. The district could also compel a Tier 1 teacher to participate in the requirements of QComp and pay that teacher according to the plan; the district may NOT utilize QComp dollars to do so.

Q: What are the Career and Technical Education licensure areas?

A: for a complete list of CTE fields, go to https://education.mn.gov/MDE/dse/cte/lic/‚Äč

Q: If a teacher is hired to teach 100% out of field, for example is licensed in secondary ELA but is hired to teach 100% in Spanish, does the person accumulate seniority in ELA starting at the point of hire?

A: This depends entirely on the contract language and how seniority is defined. Some contracts have subject matter seniority, and others have straight seniority without reference to licensure or teaching assignment. 

Q: If a Tier 4 teacher gets an endorsement in an additional field (including passing content tests), what tier will that additional license reflect?

A: Since the educator already holds a five-year standard or Tier 4 license, the new license will automatically be a Tier 4 license as well. 

Q: If a teacher picks up an endorsement in an additional field, does he or she need to submit a new fingerprint/background check at that point?

A: No. The background checks will happen at the point of initial licensure application as well as at every stage of renewal. They will not happen up on the acquisition of an endorsement. 

Q: If a teacher starts the school year at Tier 1 but enrolls in teacher prep during the school year and is granted a Tier 2 license, does that year count toward the potential two years at Tier 2 that can be counted toward a future probationary period in that district?

A: In order to count as a probationary year, the teacher needs to teach for 120 days under the Tier 2 license.  

Q: What should educators or local leaders do if a member’s placement on the tiers seems unfair or inaccurate?

A: Contact Education Minnesota field staff. 

Q: Does the statutory language that automatically moves all standard five-year license holders as of July 1, 2018 to T4 status apply to ECFE, ABE and School Readiness teachers?  

A: Yes. All educators who held a standard five-year license as of July 1, 2018 will be automatically moved to T4 status according to the transition timeline outlined above. The licensure issue is separate from the bargaining unit status issue. Having a T4 license is not determinative of bargaining unit status or continuing contract rights. That depends on the position and whether or not a license is required. ECFE and ABE teachers are in the unit but excluded from coverage under the continuing contract act. School readiness teachers are sometimes in the unit and other times not, depending on whether the district requires licensure. 

Tiered licensure FAQs
6 pgs., Word doc, 31.7 KB