Massachusetts to Open Regional Centers to Transition Emergency License Educators to Permanent Roles

May 15, 2024
Campus library table with two lamps and student working on a laptop.

Massachusetts is establishing four regional centers to help approximately 4,000 future educators with expiring emergency licenses, which were initially issued during COVID- 19 lockdowns. This will allow them to transition to permanent licensure.

In response to the challenges faced by educators during the COVID-19 pandemic, the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) in Massachusetts has taken a proactive step to address the dwindling number of educators in the field. Approximately 4,000 emergency licenses were issued to individuals who were unable to complete their schooling or take the Massachusetts Tests for Educator Licensure (MTELs) due to lockdowns, and with these emergency licenses set to expire starting this year, Massachusetts is establishing four regional centers across the state to facilitate the transition of emergency license holders to permanent licensure.

Westfield State University, in collaboration with Bridgewater State University, Class Measures, Salem State University, Stonehill College, and the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts (MCLA), will operate these regional centers to cater to different counties in Massachusetts. Westfield State University will specifically serve educators in Berkshire, Franklin, Hampshire, and Hampden counties, where a total of 856 emergency licenses have been issued. Governor Maura Healey, whose office approved the establishment of these centers, emphasized the importance of supporting educators during this critical transition period. “The license for educators was an important tool during the pandemic, and we want to help these teachers remain and grow in the field,” she said. “The licensure centers will help ensure that educators receive the additional support they need in order to obtain a standard teaching license and remain in the profession.”

The regional centers will offer free support and guidance to emergency license holders, including mentoring, coaching, and access to resources such as classwork, field experience opportunities, and preparation classes for the MTELs. Dr. Megan Kennedy, Director of Educator Preparation, Accreditation, and Outreach at Westfield State, highlighted the importance of these centers in providing essential support to highly qualified educators and ensure that they receive the assistance needed to obtain standard teaching licenses and remain in the profession.

“We have a longstanding reputation in the area for teacher preparation and support,” she commented. “We felt it was really important to support emergency licenses in particular. The population of those who hold emergency licenses is much more diverse than the population being currently drawn into traditional programs, so it’s an opportunity for Westfield State to be a leader in this area. This is about community support.”

Stephanie Grimaldi, Professor of Education at the University, emphasized the role of dedicated coaches in helping educators navigate the licensure process and overcome any barriers they may face, such as registering for exams or arranging childcare. The centers will also tailor resources based on locality, bringing support directly to educators in areas where emergency licenses are prevalent, such as Springfield. Some people need someone to help navigate the systems with them,” she said. We can provide some of these things to remove any barriers that theyve had up until this point.”

Grimaldi has also lead discussions with direct partner MCLA to identify qualified individuals in strategically important locations and recruit dedicated coaches for this respective regional center. To further reduce obstacles, the regional centers will tailor their resources to suit each locality's needs. For instance, given that there are 200 emergency license-holders based in the Springfield area, resources will be deployed to them directly, eliminating the need for them to travel to Westfield. Recruitment for coaching positions will commence in the summer, with University faculty prioritizing training to ensure a seamless launch of the initiative.

The establishment of regional centers by Massachusetts, including the leadership of Westfield State University, marks a proactive step in supporting educators during the challenging transition from emergency licenses to permanent roles. With tailored resources and mentoring, these centers not only address immediate licensure needs but also contribute to the long-term stability of the education workforce in the state.