A call for national online teacher credential

A call for national online teacher credential

(Colo.) The principal of one of the nation’s largest and oldest online learning academies recently visited a Pennsylvania district that needed advanced placement instruction for about 100 students. The online program seemed a perfect fit, having full accreditation and NCAA-approved courses with highly qualified teachers ready to go.

The only problem was that instructors from the Florida Virtual School couldn’t meet specifics of the Pennsylvania certification requirements.

The patchwork of teacher licensing requirements nationwide has never been much of a problem given that so few educators need to be certified in multiple states simultaneously. But now, argues a new report from the Evergreen Education Group, the varied landscape of state-centered teacher licensing requirements is slowing the advance of online learning.

“Streamlining the teaching licensing process to allow teachers to more easily work across multiple states would increase high-quality online educational opportunities for students, and extend the reach of high-quality teachers,” argue researchers John Watson, Amy Murin and Larry Page.

“States should create an online teaching specialization that would allow a teacher licensed in any state to teach online students in any state without having to go through a separate licensure process in each state,” the Evergreen team suggested.

Currently no state has a separate licensing option for online teaching and very few have a defined professional development pathway to support digital instruction, according to the Evergreen report.

At the same time, however, the teacher licensing requirements vary dramatically state-to-state.

All states require candidates to pass a test to become certified as a classroom teacher while 29 states require separate licensing for middle school. Credit hours also vary, Utah requires at least 30 semester or 45 quarter hours of credit derived from required and elective courses offered in a given subject field.

The solution proposed by Evergreen is that states should adopt a specialization requirement specifically for online instructors that would consist of the following elements:

  1. They demonstrate that they are licensed and highly qualified in any state, and
  2. They demonstrate expertise in teaching online via either of two methods:
  • They have taken and passed a professional development course in teaching online by an approved provider, which includes a course specific to teaching in an online environment offered by universities, regional education agencies, or national providers of accredited programs, or
  • They have successfully taught in an accredited online program for at least three years.

Matt Vangalis, principal of the Florida Virtual Global School, told the Evergreen team that it is time for public policy to catch up with technological reality.

“What it really boils down to is this: great teachers teach. It shouldn’t matter where you became a great teacher,” he said. “If teachers hold a valid teaching certificate with multiple years (three-plus) of successful experience, they should be eligible for some kind of on-line teaching certificate that would be accepted by all 50 states.”