The state should close loopholes that allow teachers who have not met licensure requirements to continue teaching. This goal was consistent between 2015 and 2017.
Emergency License(s) Availability: New legislation, HB 1425, in Arkansas authorizes the use of an emergency permit by a non-licensed teacher who meets the state's Qualified Teacher Requirements. To qualify for an emergency permit, an applicant must have one of the following in the content area to be taught: a bachelor's degree, advanced degree, passage of a content area assessment, National Board Certification, documentation of relevant work experience, or a bachelor's or advanced degree with at least 18 credit hours in the content area to be taught.
This same legislation also authorizes the state board to issue provisional licenses. Candidates for a provisional license can either complete a preparation program including demonstration of content knowledge or "partially meet full licensure requirements." The law is unclear on what those partial requirements are.
However, pending rule changes indicate that a provisional license can be issued to an applicant for a standard license who has completed all licensure requirements except for: passage of a pedagogy test and if applicable passage of a reading test or completed coursework in Arkansas history, or "meets other extenuating circumstances approved by the State Board."
Emergency License Validity Period: The emergency teaching permit is valid for two years and it is not clear whether or not the permit is renewable. Pending rule changes further clarify that the emergency permit is valid for the school year in which it is issued, but may be extended for one additional school year with approval from the Arkansas Department of Education.
Ensure that all teachers pass required subject-matter licensing tests before they enter the classroom.
All students are entitled to teachers who know the subject matter they are teaching. Permitting individuals who have not yet passed state licensing tests to teach neglects the needs of students, because it enables adults who may not be able to meet minimal state standards to earn teaching licenses. Arkansas should ensure that all teachers are required to pass licensing tests — an important minimum benchmark for entering the profession —before entering the classroom as the teacher of record.
Limit exceptions to one year.
Although suboptimal, there may be limited and exceptional circumstances under which conditional or emergency licenses are necessary. In these instances, it is reasonable for a state to give teachers up to one year to pass required licensing tests. Arkansas's current policy puts students at risk by allowing teachers to teach on emergency certificates up to two years without passing required subject-matter licensing tests.
Arkansas provided a response to an analysis indicating the proposed rules require demonstration of content knowledge when a school has a waiver from licensure.
NCTQ is unable to award credit based on State Board rules that have not been formally adopted.
6B: Provisional and Emergency Licensure
Teachers who have not passed content licensing tests 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 minimum state standards.
While some flexibility may be necessary because licensing tests are not always administered with the needed frequency, making provisional certificates and waivers available year after year could signal that 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.