Licensure Reciprocity

Expanding the Pool of Teachers Policy

Licensure Reciprocity

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

Best practices

Although no state stands out for its overall reciprocity policies, two states are worthy of mention for their connection of reciprocal licensure to evidence of teacher effectiveness. When determining eligibility for full certification, both Delaware and Idaho consider teacher evaluations from previous employment that include objective measures of student growth. NCTQ also commends the eight states—Indiana, Massachusetts, Mississippi, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and Texas—that appropriately support licensure reciprocity by requiring that certified teachers from other states meet their own testing requirements, and by not specifying any additional coursework or recency requirements to determine eligibility for either traditional or alternate route teachers.

Suggested Citation:
National Council on Teacher Quality. (2015). Licensure Reciprocity National Results. State Teacher Policy Database. [Data set].
Retrieved from:
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Nearly meets goal 9


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Does not meet goal 19


Progress on this goal since 2013

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When determining if out-of-state teachers are eligible for full certification, do states require some evidence of effectiveness?

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Yes. State explicitly requires some evidence of teacher effectiveness. : DC, DE

No. State requires some data on past performance, but no evidence of effectiveness is explicitly required. : CA, CO, CT, GA, HI, NJ, NY

No. State does not require any performance measures, including evidence of effectiveness. : AK, AL, AR, AZ, FL, IA, ID, IL, IN, KS, KY, LA, MA, MD, ME, MI, MN, MO, MS, MT, NC, ND, NE, NH, NM, NV, OH, OK, OR, PA, RI, SC, SD, TN, TX, UT, VA, VT, WA, WI, WV, WY

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

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Yes: AK, IA, IL, IN, MA, ME, MN, MS, NC, NE, NY, OH, PA, RI, SD, TN, TX, UT, WA, WI

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

AK: Alaska allows up to three years to meet testing requirements.
MT: In Montana, no subject-matter testing for any teacher certification.
ND: Depends on licensure
NH: The Foundations of Reading test may not be waived.
TN: Allows up to three years to submit passing scores.

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. : AK, AL, AR, AZ, CA, CT, DE, FL, GA, HI, ID, IL, IN, MA, MD, MI, MN, MO, MS, NC, NH, NJ, NM, OH, OK, PA, RI, SC, SD, TN, TX, VA, WV

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

No. State maintains specific and distinct requirements for teachers prepared through alternate routes. : CO, DC, KY, LA, ME, MT, ND, NE, NV, NY, UT, VT

Research rationale

Evidence of effectiveness is far more important than transcript review.
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 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.