The state should base licensure advancement on evidence of teacher effectiveness. This goal was consistent between 2015 and 2017.
Evidence of Effectiveness: Arkansas's requirements for licensure advancement and renewal are not based on evidence of teacher effectiveness.
Advancing to a Professional License: Arkansas allows all candidates who meet its initial requirements to be eligible for the five-year standard license. Applicants seeking licensure in early childhood, elementary education, middle childhood, or secondary social studies must complete three credit hours of Arkansas history.
Renewing a Professional License: Arkansas teachers must obtain 36 hours of professional development annually. Although these hours must include, at a minimum, the professional development required in the teacher's professional growth plan under Arkansas's evaluation system, Teacher Excellence and Support System (TESS), the state no longer requires that objective measures of student growth be factored into the evaluation score. Licenses must be renewed every five years.
Require evidence of effectiveness as a part of teacher licensing policy.
Arkansas should require evidence of teacher effectiveness to be a factor in determining whether teachers may renew or advance to a higher-level license.
Discontinue license requirements with no direct connection to classroom effectiveness.
Although some targeted requirements may potentially expand teacher knowledge and improve teacher practice, Arkansas's general, nonspecific coursework requirements for license renewal merely call for teachers to complete a certain amount of seat time. These requirements do not correlate with teacher effectiveness.
Arkansas recognized the factual accuracy of this analysis. The state added that it is proposing rules that will incorporate verification of teacher effectiveness to move from a first-time license to an upper-level license. These rules will be placed on the state board's regular meeting schedule.
Arkansas also noted that although a teacher's evaluation is not a requirement for licensure, student growth measures are factored in throughout the evaluation rubric domains and components, using multiple measures of student growth. The proposed Rules Governing Educator Support and Development will be placed on the state board's regular meeting schedule.
9A: Licensure Advancement
The reason for probationary licensure should be to determine teacher effectiveness. Most states grant new teachers a probationary license that must later be converted to an advanced or professional license. A probationary period is sound policy as it provides an opportunity to determine whether individuals merit professional licensure. However, very few states require any determination of teacher performance or effectiveness in deciding whether a teacher will advance from the probationary license. Instead, states generally require probationary teachers to fulfill a set of requirements to receive advanced certification. Therefore, ending the probationary period is based on whether a checklist has been completed rather than on teacher performance and effectiveness.
Most state requirements for achieving professional certification have not been shown to affect teacher effectiveness. Unfortunately, not only do most states fail to connect advanced certification to actual evidence of teacher effectiveness, but also the requirements teachers must most often meet are not even related to teacher effectiveness. The most common requirement for professional licensure is completion of additional coursework, often resulting in a master's degree. Requiring teachers to obtain additional training in their teaching area would be meaningful; however, the requirements are usually vague, allowing the teacher to fulfill coursework requirements from long menus that include areas having no connection or use to the teacher in the classroom. The research evidence on requiring a master's degree is quite conclusive: with rare exceptions, these degrees have not been shown to make teachers more effective. This is likely due in no small part to the fact that teachers may not attain master's degrees in their subject areas.
In addition to their dubious value, these requirements may also serve as a disincentive to teacher retention. Talented probationary teachers may be unwilling to invest time and resources in more education coursework. Further, they may well pursue advanced degrees that facilitate leaving teaching.