Study calls on states to relax teacher credential reciprocity

Study calls on states to relax teacher credential reciprocity

(Colo.) Eleven states have passed legislation simplifying the process for out-of-state teachers to receive in-state credentials since the beginning of 2016 in an effort to address teacher shortages, according to a report from the Education Commission of the States.

Two states—Arizona and Nevada—went a step further, and joined Mississippi, Florida and Missouri in adopting full reciprocity policies.

Teacher-credential-reciprocity agreements allow states to develop a path through which candidates who hold an out-of-state license to earn a license in a different state after meeting state-specific requirements. In some cases, states will work through variations in licensing systems to coordinate interstate transfers and fill vacant teaching positions with qualified candidates.

Currently, 31 states require out-of-state teachers to take extra coursework or training either before entering the classroom or within a certain number of years after doing so, according to the Education Commission report. Meanwhile, 43 states and the District of Columbia require out-of-state teachers to take assessments, 24 states and D.C. streamline the reciprocity process for out-of-state teachers who have advanced credentials, and 27 states have special provisions for military spouses.

California became one of those 27 states just last week after Gov. Jerry Brown signed a bill that gives the Commission on Teacher Credentialing seven days to consider applications of spouses of active United States military service members if they hold a teaching credential from another state. Earlier this year, West Virginia passed a bill providing for a temporary one-year renewable license for military spouses, and Indiana passed legislation requiring that teacher licensure applications by military spouses be expedited.

According to the Education Commission report, state-specific licensing requirements often prevent the movement of teachers from areas where there is a surplus of personnel with their credentials to areas where there may be a critical need.

“Some states experience teacher shortages in subject areas for which other states produced more candidates than they can hire,” wrote Stephanie Aragon, policy analyst for the Commission and author of the report. “Reducing barriers for out-of-state teachers, subject to some safeguards, could help these states fill longstanding vacancies with qualified teacher candidates.”

Aragon did note, however, that some state-specific licensing requirements might help promote workforce quality within a state, whether by keeping effective teachers in the state where they are credentialed or by keeping weaker teachers out.

Aragon points to a 2015 study from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill that found out-of-state teachers were significantly less effective than those prepared in North Carolina. That study found that teachers who were most qualified found jobs within their state, while those who couldn’t find jobs were the ones crossing state lines.

Many states that require additional courses or assessments of out-of-state teachers often focus on training that will benefit students or that emphasize differences in state standards. In Wyoming, for instance, teachers must take a course or test on the state’s constitution before receiving their credentials, and in California, teachers need to complete courses on teaching English learners.

Although the report doesn’t call for every state to adopt full reciprocity policies, it does suggest that having policies that make it too difficult for out-of-state teachers to transfer their credentials may be contributing to teacher attrition rates.

“According to a recent national survey of teachers who left the profession and would consider returning, 41 percent cited the ability to seamlessly transfer their licenses from one state to the next as an important factor in their decision to return to the classroom,” Aragon wrote. “State-specific licensing requirements discourage some experienced teachers from re-applying for licensure after crossing state lines.”