Middle School Teacher and K-8 Licenses- Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education

Educator Services

Middle School Teacher and K-8 Licenses

To:Superintendents, Principals, and Educators
From:David P. Driscoll
Date:28 October 2004


I am writing to clarify for schools and educators the types of teaching assignments that are appropriate for teachers holding the Middle School Teacher licenses. As you may recall, the Department of Education stopped issuing this license to new applicants in October, 2001.

Middle School Teacher License:

The Middle School Teacher license was implemented during an era when many middle school students were organized in a multi-subject team teaching environment. As the requirements for proficiency in subject matter have become more rigorous, this approach has often been replaced with classrooms devoted to a single subject.

Therefore, we need to reiterate and clarify when the Middle School Teacher license is appropriate for a classroom assignment and when it is not. Teachers possessing only a Middle School Teacher license:

  • may teach or team teach two or more subject areas;
  • may not teach in a class that covers a single subject area.

This is not a new policy; it has been communicated to many districts that have raised these questions over the past dozen years. The policy is consistent with the fundamental requirement that teachers must possess the license that affords the best fit with their teaching assignment. The Department has offered Middle School subject matter licenses (math, science, English, etc.) for many years. These are the licenses that have been and continue to be appropriate for assignment to a classroom that covers a single subject area as are the Middle School Math/Science and Humanities licenses that became effective in October 2001.

There is, however, some confusion. Over the past several years, the Department has not stipulated precisely how this policy applies to the Middle School Teacher license in a broad based manner. Therefore, I am providing districts and educators holding the Middle School Teacher license with a two year transition period after which teachers holding this license may not teach only one subject area.

Districts can use this first year to:

  • identify those teaching a single subject only;
  • hold a meeting with the impacted teachers and discuss the options available to them;
  • plan for assignments that are appropriate for teachers who hold the Middle School Teacher License by the 2006/2007 school year (no waiver is needed prior to 9/06), and
  • provide direction and support to affected teachers.

Educators with the Middle School Teacher license can use this first year to:

  • seek assignment to a multi-subject instructional setting (where such options are available);
  • make another of the licenses they hold their "primary" license and/or reactivate relevant licenses that have become "inactive" or "invalid" because they weren't renewed;
  • transfer to a teaching assignment that is appropriate for the license(s) they hold;
  • apply for licenses that might be a better fit for classes/instructional settings that are more available to them. Currently, passing the appropriate MTEL subject matter test qualifies an experienced educator for most Initial Licenses, with the Professional License awarded after an additional 3 years of working under the Initial License. I am submitting a recommendation to the Board of Education that would enable experienced educators who hold a Professional License to receive a Professional (rather than Initial) License when they meet the criteria for adding a license.

K-8 Teacher License:

Due to significantly different circumstances, I plan to resolve the matter of assigning educators holding the K-8 license to single subject matter classes in a different manner. This license has not been issued to new applicants for over a quarter of a century. On two prior occasions, the Department has broadly communicated to both districts and educators that the K-8 license is appropriate for assignment to a single subject area. I will allow such assignments to continue.

We must acknowledge that possession of the K-8 license alone does not guarantee the degree of subject knowledge mastery we believe is needed to move all of our students to the proficient level. Therefore, I am asking all superintendents and principals to ensure that the Individual Professional Development Plan for every K-8 teacher assigned to a single subject matter class is focused on expanding that teacher's mastery of relevant subject matter knowledge.

Last Updated: November 5, 2004

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