Licensure Reciprocity: Alaska

2013 Expanding the Pool of Teachers Policy

Goal

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

Meets in part
Suggested Citation:
National Council on Teacher Quality. (2013). Licensure Reciprocity: Alaska results. State Teacher Policy Database. [Data set].
Retrieved from: https://www.nctq.org/yearbook/state/AK-Licensure-Reciprocity-21

Analysis of Alaska's policies

Commendably, Alaska requires all teachers to meet its passing scores on licensing tests, and out-of-state teachers are allowed one year to meet these testing requirements.

However, other aspects of the state's policy create obstacles for teachers from other states seeking licensure in Alaska. Teachers with valid out-of-state certificates are eligible for Alaska's professional teaching license, but they must submit a transcript showing that six additional semester hours of credit have been earned within the past five years. Further, Alaska requires three credit hours each in Alaska studies and multicultural coursework, and the state does not offer a test-out option for either of these coursework requirements. 

Although transcripts are required for all applicants, it is not clear whether the state analyzes these transcripts to determine whether a teacher was prepared through a traditional or alternate route or whether additional coursework will be required.

Alaska is also a participant in the NASDTEC Interstate Agreement, which outlines which other states' certificates will be accepted by the receiving state. This agreement is not a collection of two-way reciprocal acceptances, nor is it a guarantee that all certificates will be accepted by the receiving state, and is therefore not included in this analysis.

The state does not articulate specific certification requirements for out-of-state teachers who teach online courses to Alaska students. 

Citation

Recommendations for Alaska

Offer a standard license to certified out-of-state teachers, absent unnecessary requirements. 

The state should offer standard licenses to certified out-of-state teachers rather than restricting them to provisional ones until they meet Alaska's requirements. Although the state's Alaska studies and multicultural communications coursework requirements are reasonable, it should offer out-of-state teachers a test-out option. The state should also reconsider its recency requirement as a means to judge licensure eligibility. Recent coursework is unlikely to positively affect a teacher's effectiveness, and such a requirement may deter experienced, effective teachers from applying for licensure in the state.

Accord the same license to out-of-state alternate route teachers as would be accorded to traditionally prepared teachers. 

Alaska should consider discontinuing its requirement for the submission of transcripts. Transcript analysis is likely to result in additional coursework requirements, even for traditionally prepared teachers; alternate route teachers, on the other hand, may have to virtually begin anew, repeating some, most or all of a teacher preparation program in Alaska. Regardless of whether a teacher was prepared through a traditional or alternate route, all certified out-of-state teachers should receive equal treatment.

Require evidence of effective teaching when determining eligibility for full certification. 

Rather than rely on transcripts to assess credentials, Alaska should instead require that evidence of teacher effectiveness be considered for all out-of-state candidates. Such evidence is especially important for candidates who come from states that make student growth at least a significant factor of a teacher evaluation (see Goal 3-B). 

Ensure that requirements for online teachers are equal in rigor to those for in-state teachers. 

Alaska should ensure that online teachers based in other states are at least equally as qualified as those who teach in the state. However, Alaska should balance the interests of its students in having qualified online instructors with making certain that these requirements do not create unnecessary obstacles for out-of-state teachers. 


State response to our analysis

Alaska asserted that it requires all teachers to pass a basic competency exam, and that it accepts some state-specific basic competency exams. The state also has requirements that out-of-state teachers must meet for professional certification. 

Further, Alaska added that it requires transcripts to establish that the applicant for teacher certification has completed at least a bachelor's degree from a regionally accredited university. In the case of an individual completing a traditional university program, the transcript is also used to verify the information provided on the institutional recommendation. Alaska also certifies teachers who have completed a state-approved alternate route to certification in another state. The state recommendation form is used to document satisfactory completion of all elements of the state-approved program.

Alaska noted that if a public school district is employing an out-of-state teacher to provide instruction in an online classroom, the teacher must hold an Alaska teacher certificate. 

Last word

The submission of transcripts should be unnecessary for certified out-of-state teachers, unless the state has some reason to suspect that the certifying state routinely licenses teachers who do not have a degree. 

How we graded

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 https://www.ncbex.org/assets/media_files/Comp-Guide/CompGuide.pdf.

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.