North Dakota’s Answer to Teacher Shortage Leaves Qualified Music Teachers in the Classroom

Last week, North Dakota’s State Education Standards and Practices Board approved an amended emergency administrative rule, addressing the recent teacher shortage the state has been experiencing. The proposed rule would allow districts to issue a “letter of approval” to an individual from the community who is not a licensed educator, but has a specific expertise in a field related to the teaching assignment, such as health, physical education, or business courses. Teaching assignments for these community members can last up to one year and are only for non-core subject areas. Community expert salaries are comparable to a first year teacher’s salary, and they must meet with a school district-employed mentor regularly.

The amended rule, which the Practices Board approved by a 5-3 vote, struck music and arts classes from the language because those classes are considered as core academic subjects under No Child Left Behind, the last iteration of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA). This is fantastic news for music education, ensuring qualified and certified individuals remain teaching in music classrooms, and a prime example of why it is imperative to maintain “music” and “arts” as core academic subjects within Congress’ latest ESEA rewrite.

As of August 18, with 99 of the 183 districts reporting, the North Dakota Council of Educational Leaders found that there were 88 teacher openings within the State in their survey. Governor Jack Dalrymple plans to sign this amended rule, which is expected to happen later this week. NAfME and the North Dakota Music Educators Association will continue to monitor developments on the rule’s passage.

Ronny Lau, Legislative Policy Advisor, Center for Advocacy and Constituency Engagement, September 1, 2015. © National Association for Music Education (