Licensure Reciprocity

Expanding the Pool of Teachers Policy

Licensure Reciprocity

The state should help to make licenses fully portable among states, with appropriate safeguards.

Best practices

Alabama and Texas appropriately support licensure reciprocity by requiring that certified teachers from other states meet Alabama's and Texas's own testing requirements, and by not specifying any additional coursework or recency requirements to determine eligibility for either traditional or alternate route teachers. Also worthy of mention is Delaware for its reciprocity policy that limits the evidence of "successful" experience it will accept to evaluation results from states with rigorous requirements similar to its own.

Suggested Citation:
National Council on Teacher Quality. (2013). Licensure Reciprocity national results. State Teacher Policy Database. [Data set].
Retrieved from:
Best practice 2


Meets goal 3


Nearly meets goal 5


Meets goal in part 22


Meets a small part of goal 12


Does not meet goal 7


Progress on this goal since 2011

  • Improved
  • Stayed the same
  • Regressed

Do states require all out-of-state teachers to pass in-state licensure tests to receive licensure?

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Yes: AK, AL, IA, ID, IL, IN, MA, ME, MN, NC, ND, NY, OH, OK, PA, RI, SD, TX, UT, WA, WI

No: AR, AZ, CA, CO, CT, DC, DE, FL, GA, HI, KS, KY, LA, MD, MI, MO, MS, MT, NE, NH, NJ, NM, NV, OR, SC, TN, VA, VT, WV, WY

AK: Allows one year to meet testing requirements.
MA: Allows one year to meet testing requirements.
ME: Maine grants waiver for basic skills and pedagogy tests.
MT: No subject-matter testing for any teacher certification.
NY: Waiver for teachers with National Board Certification; all others given two years to meet testing requirements.
TX: Allows one year to meet testing requirements.
WA: Waiver for teachers with National Board Certification.

Do states treat out-of-state teachers equally regardless of whether they were prepared in a traditional or an alternate route program?

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Yes. State treats out-of-state teachers equally regardless of preparation type. : AL, GA, TX, WV

Partially. State maintains policies that have the potential to create obstacles for teachers prepared through alternate routes. : CA, IA, KS, NY, WA, WY

No. State maintains specific and distinct requirements for teachers prepared through alternate routes. : AK, AR, AZ, CO, CT, DC, DE, FL, HI, ID, IL, IN, KY, LA, MA, MD, ME, MI, MN, MO, MS, MT, NC, ND, NE, NH, NJ, NM, NV, OH, OK, OR, PA, RI, SC, SD, TN, UT, VA, VT, WI

Research rationale

Using transcripts to judge teacher competency provides little value.

In an attempt to ensure that teachers have the appropriate professional and subject-matter knowledge base when granting certification, states often review a teacher's college transcript, no matter how many years earlier a bachelor's degree was earned. A state certification specialist reviews the college transcript, looking for course titles that appear to match state requirements. If the right matches are not found, a teacher may be required to complete additional coursework before receiving standard licensure. This practice holds true even for experienced teachers who are trying to transfer from another state, regardless of experience or success level. The application of these often complex state rules results in unnecessary obstacles to hiring talented and experienced teachers. Little evidence indicates that reviewing a person's undergraduate coursework improves the quality of the teaching force or ensures that teachers have adequate knowledge.

New evaluation systems coming on line across the country which prioritize effectiveness and evidence of student learning (see Goal 3-B) offer an opportunity to bypass counterproductive efforts like transcript review and get to the heart of the matter:  is the out of state teacher seeking licensure in a new state an effective teacher? 

Testing requirements should be upheld, not waived.

While many states impose burdensome coursework requirements, they often fail to impose minimum standards on licensure tests. Instead, they offer waivers to veteran teachers transferring from other states, thereby failing to impose minimal standards of professional and subject-matter knowledge. In upholding licensure standards for out-of-state teachers, the state should be flexible in its processes but vigilant in its verification of adequate knowledge. Too many states have policies and practices that reverse these priorities, focusing diligently on comparison of transcripts to state documents while demonstrating little oversight of teachers' knowledge. If a state can verify that a teacher has taught successfully and has the required subject-matter and professional knowledge, its only concern should be ensuring that the teacher is familiar with the state's student learning standards.

States licensing out-of-state teachers should not differentiate between experienced teachers prepared in alternate routes and those prepared in traditional programs.

It is understandable that states are wary of accepting alternate route teachers from other states, since programs vary widely in quality. However, the same wide variety in quality can be found in traditional programs. If a teacher comes from another state with a standard license and can pass the state's licensure tests, whether the preparation was traditional or alternative should be irrelevant.

Licensure Reciprocity: Supporting Research

Many professions have gone further than teaching in encouraging interstate mobility. The requirements for attorneys, for example, are complicated, but often offer certain kinds of flexibility, such as allowing them to answer a small set of additional questions. See the Comprehensive Guide to Bar Admissions Requirements 2014, published by the National Conference of Bar Examiners and the American Bar Association, available at

On the similarity in effectiveness between graduates of traditional and alternative programs, see J. Constantine, D. Player, T. Silva, K. Hallgren, M. Grider, J. Deke, and E. Warner, An Evaluation of Teachers Trained Through Different Routes to Certification, Final Report. February 2009, U.S. Department of Education, NCEE 2009-4043. D. Boyd, P. Grossman, H. Lankford, S. Loeb, and J. Wyckoff, "How Changes in Entry Requirements Alter the Teacher Workforce and Affect Student Achievement." NBER Working Paper No. 11844, December 2005. T. Kane, J. Rockoff, and D. Staiger. "What Does Certification Tell Us About Teacher Effectiveness? Evidence from New York City." NBER Working Paper No.12155, April 2006. G. Henry, C. Thompson, K. Bastian, C. Fortner, D. Kershaw, K. Purtell, R. Zulli, A. Mabe, and A. Chapman, "Impacts of Teacher Preparation on Student Test Scores in North Carolina: Teacher Portals". The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Carolina Institute for Public Policy, 2010, 34p. Z. Xu, J. Hannaway, and C. Taylor, "Making a Difference?  The Effects of Teach for America in High School." The Urban Institute/Calder, Working Paper 17, April 2007. D. Boyd, P. Grossman, K. Hammerness. H. Lankford, S. Loeb, M. Ronfeldt, and J. Wyckoff, "Recruiting Effective Math Teachers: How Do Math Immersion Teachers Compare?: Evidence from New York City." NBER Working Paper No.16017, May 2010; as well as "How Changes in Entry Requirements Alter the Teacher Workforce and Affect Student Achievement," by D. Boyd, P. Grossman, H. Lankford, S. Loeb, and J. Wyckoff, NBER Working Paper No.11844, December 2005; and "The Effects of Teach For America on Students: Findings from a National Evaluation," by P. Decker, D. Mayer, and S. Glazerman, Mathematica Policy Research Inc., 2004.