Licensure Loopholes

2011 Exiting Ineffective Teachers Policy

2011: Licensure Loopholes

The state should close loopholes that allow teachers who have not met licensure requirements to continue teaching.

Best practices

Colorado, IllinoisMississippi, and New Jersey require all new teachers to pass all required subject-matter tests as a condition of initial licensure.

Suggested Citation:
National Council on Teacher Quality. (2011). Licensure Loopholes national results. State Teacher Policy Database. [Data set].
Retrieved from:
Best practice 4


Meets goal 4


Nearly meets goal 13


Meets goal in part 2


Meets a small part of goal 2


Does not meet goal 26


How long do states permit new teachers to teach under emergency or provisional licenses without passing content licensing tests?

Figure details

No deferral : CO, IL, MS, NJ, NM, NV, SC, UT, VA

Up to 1 year: AL, AR, CT, DC, GA, IA, KY, MA, ND, OH, OK, RI, WV, WY

Up to 2 years: CA, KS, MD, NY, SD, TN, VT, WA

3 years or more (or unspecified): AK, AZ, DE, FL, HI, ID, IN, LA, ME, MI, MN, MO, NC, NH, OR, PA, TX, WI

IA: Iowa only requires subject-matter testing for elementary teachers.
UT: There is a potential loophole in Utah, as alternate route teachers appear able to delay passage of subject-matter tests.
WY: Wyoming only requires subject-matter testing for elementary and social studies teachers.

Do states mitigate risk associated with emergency or provisional licenses?

Figure details

Yes. State maintains no emergency or provisional licenses.: CO, IL, NJ, NM, NV, SC, UT, VA

Partially. State maintains nonrenewable emergency or provisional licenses.: AK, AL, AR, CA, CT, DC, DE, FL, GA, IA, ID, KS, KY, MA, MD, NC, ND, NH, NY, OH, OK, OR, RI, VT, WA, WV, WY

No. State maintains renewable emergency or provisional licenses.: AZ, HI, IN, LA, ME, MI, MN, MO, MS, PA, SD, TN, TX, WI

ND: License is renewable, but only if licensure tests are passed.
OH: License is renewable, but only if licensure tests are passed.

How we graded

Teachers who have not passed licensing tests may place students at risk.

While states may need a regulatory basis for filling classroom positions with a few people who do not hold full teaching credentials, many of the regulations permitting this put the instructional needs of children at risk, often year after year. For example, schools can make liberal use of provisional certificates or waivers provided by the state if they fill classroom positions with instructors who have completed a teacher preparation program but have not passed their state licensing tests. These allowances are permitted for up to three years in some states. The unfortunate consequence is that students' needs are neglected in an effort to extend personal consideration to adults who cannot meet minimal state standards.

While some flexibility may be necessary because licensing tests are not always administered with the needed frequency, the availability of provisional certificates and waivers year after year signals that even the state does not put much value on its licensing standards or what they represent. States accordingly need to ensure that all persons given full charge of children's learning are required to pass the relevant licensing tests in their first year of teaching, ideally before they enter the classroom. Licensing tests are an important minimum benchmark in the profession, and states that allow teachers to postpone passing these tests are abandoning one of the basic responsibilities of licensure.

Research rationale

Research has shown that "the difference in student performance in a single academic year from having a good as opposed to a bad teacher can be more than one full year of standardized achievement." See E. Hanushek, "The Trade-Off between Child Quantity and Quality," The Journal of Political Economy 100 No. 1 (1992): 84-117. Hanushek has also found that highly effective teachers can improve future student earnings by more than $400,000, assuming a class of 20.  "The Economic Value of Higher Teacher Quality." National Bureau of Economic Research. Working Paper 16606 (2010).

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