Missouri's Visiting Scholar Program
Visiting Scholars: A Pathway for More Practitioners
Recruiting and retaining the best teachers is the aspiration of every school leader, yet we know sometimes that can be challenging. Teacher shortage is a common topic in both research literature and mainstream media. HB 1665, passed in 2018, gives Missouri school leaders an additional opportunity to find the most qualified teachers in specific content areas. The Visiting Scholars certificate, modeled after a similar program in Kansas, makes it possible for professionals to teach high school courses without a traditional teaching certificate. Courses that may be taught by Visiting Scholars are limited to those that are part of a business-education partnership and that enroll students in grades 9-12.
To qualify for a Visiting Scholar certificate, an individual must
be hired by a district* to teach in his or her area of expertise as part of a business-education partnership;
hold a degree or relevant credential in the content area;
complete the application for the Visiting Scholar certificate; and
complete a background check.
The certificate is valid for one year and is renewable up to two additional years. A Visiting Scholar must participate in the district’s professional development and receive a satisfactory evaluation in order to renew the certificate. What distinguishes the Visiting Scholar certificate from other temporary authorization certificates or alternative certificates is that the Visiting Scholar is not required to complete requirements toward obtaining a traditional teaching certificate, thus, allowing the Visiting Scholar to focus solely on teaching.
Legislation introduced in 2019 would have expanded the Visiting Scholars certificate to any content area for an individual with a master’s degree or higher and a minimum of 18 hours in the content area to be taught, but that legislation did not pass this session.
The 2017 U.S. Department of Education Teacher Shortage Areas Nationwide Listing identifies teacher shortages in numerous counties throughout Missouri in the following content areas that could be applicable for Visiting Scholars:
Human services education
Health occupations industrial technology
Marketing and cooperative education
Occupational family and consumer sciences
Skilled technical sciences
Technology and engineering education
Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) records show only one Visiting Scholars certificate has been issued. In fact, just over three-quarters (77%) of teachers in Missouri went through a traditional certification route either in Missouri or another state. Figure 1 below shows the certification route taken by Missouri teachers for those employed in public schools during the 2018-19 school year.
While Visiting Scholars alone will not solve the larger teacher shortage issues, it is a viable option in some situations. Information on applying for a Visiting Scholar certificate is available on the DESE website.
Discussion of the Visiting Scholars certificate opens up broader conversations about alternative teaching credentials, teacher shortages, and recruiting and retaining highly effective teachers. In the coming months, we will publish policy briefs that look more closely into Missouri’s teacher workforce and these issues.
* §168.021.1(6)(a) RSMo. specifically references “school districts” and does not reference charter schools. However, §160.420.2, RSMo. allows for up to 20 percent of instructional staff positions in charter schools to be uncertificated personnel.