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The Missouri State Board of Education voted unanimously Tuesday to eliminate the cumulative GPA requirement from all teacher certification rules.

The new amendment, which goes into effect in 30 days, eliminates the required 3.0 cumulative GPA for education students applying for teaching licenses. This includes every area of the state's K-12 education system, from early childhood to secondary and special education.

The cumulative GPA requirement was removed to expand opportunities to a more diverse range of applicants.

The board in October 2020 approved a public comment period for the proposal, which occurred throughout December. The board received 41 comments on the proposed amendment, including 38 in favor and three in opposition.

Comments in favor were submitted by the Council on Public Education, the Missouri State Teacher Association, 23 representatives of higher education programs, four educators and nine potential teacher candidates.

"We didn't have a single professional organization who stood in opposition," said Paul Katnick, assistant commissioner of DESE's office of Educator Quality.

The three comments in opposition expressed concerns about maintaining high standards for teachers.

"Our response to that is we have a number of measures that remain in place," Katnick said.

Missouri still requires a 3.0 content and professional knowledge GPA, a passing score for the Missouri Content Assessment and a requirement that candidates pass the state's performance assessment.

"We feel like that guarantees that standards for teachers remain high, and we get the best quality candidates that we can have," Katnick said.

None of Missouri's border states have a cumulative GPA requirement for teacher certification, but several have professional and content GPA requirements, according to DESE.

Twenty-four comments addressed the barrier the cumulative GPA requirement creates for students who want to be teachers but had difficult first and second years of college, often years before deciding to pursue education.

Nineteen comments highlighted the inequitable barriers the cumulative GPA requirement creates for underrepresented groups such as people of color, first-generation students and low-income students.

The median cost of a credit hour at a public university is $530. Retaking three to five classes to raise a cumulative GPA adds $5,000-$8,000 to college debt, according to DESE.

More than 93 percent of teachers are white, and more than 78 percent are female, according to DESE. These numbers have stayed the same from 2014-20.

Fifteen comments addressed the lack of research connecting cumulative GPA to teacher quality.

One comment highlighted a 2019 study in which Texas State University professors found increasing the admission cumulative GPA from 2.5 to 2.75 did not improve outcomes and resulted in fewer male students and students of color.

Five comments mentioned the difference between other professional programs and teacher education.

"Many math and science college programs embrace a grading mindset that a 2.00 GPA in math and science is an average student limiting the number of math and science teacher candidates due to the cumulative GPA requirement," one comment says.

GPA requirements disproportionately impact STEM fields. Lowest scoring departments included chemistry (2.78), math (2.9), biology (2.98) and physics (3.09), according to DESE.

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