Licensure Reciprocity: California

Expanding the Pool of Teachers Policy


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

Does not meet goal
Suggested Citation:
National Council on Teacher Quality. (2011). Licensure Reciprocity: California results. State Teacher Policy Database. [Data set].
Retrieved from:

Analysis of California's policies

California does not support licensure reciprocity for certified teachers from other states.

It is unclear whether California upholds its standards for all teachers by insisting that out-of-state teachers meet its testing requirements. It appears that neither elementary nor secondary teachers have to demonstrate subject-matter competence if they have less than two years of teaching experience and apply for the state's Five-Year Preliminary Credential. Out-of-state teachers need not pass California's CSET content test until they apply for California's Clear Teaching Credential. 

Teachers with comparable out-of-state certificates are eligible for California's Clear Teaching Credential. Those with two or more years of experience are required to complete one of the following: 150 hours of professional activities, a master's degree or higher and a bachelor's degree with a minimum of 150 semester units. Teachers must also earn an authorization to teach English learners as well as meet the state's subject-matter competence, meaning the out-of-state credential must correspond to a California subject area or the candidate must complete 32 units of coursework in the California subject area.

Teachers with less than two years of experience are also eligible for the state's clear credential if they complete the state's two-year induction program, in addition to earning an authorization to teach English learners and meeting the state's subject-matter competence. Also, those with National Board for Professional Teaching Standards Certification will be issued a clear credential for the corresponding subject area.

Unfortunately, alternate route teachers applying for even the preliminary certificate in California must have completed their programs at a regionally accredited institution; therefore, district-run alternate route programs or programs provided by groups such as Teach For America or the New Teacher Project would not meet the state's definition. Additionally, the program must have provided student teaching, even though a responsible alternate route program might have instead provided a strong induction program with intensive mentoring.

Transcripts are required for all applicants; however, 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.

California is also a participant in the NASDTEC Interstate Agreement; however, the latest iteration of this agreement no longer purports to be a reciprocity agreement among states and thus is no longer included in this analysis.


Recommendations for California

To uphold standards, require that teachers coming from other states meet testing requirements.
California should insist that out-of-state teachers meet its own testing requirements, and it should not provide any waivers of its teacher tests unless an applicant can provide evidence of a passing score under its own standards.

Offer a standard license to certified out-of-state teachers, absent unnecessary requirements.
California should reconsider its requirement of a master's degree or excessive undergraduate coursework, for research has concluded that these requirements do not positively affect teacher effectiveness. The professional activities requirement is also burdensome and may deter talented out-of-state teachers from applying for certification in California. The state's induction requirement is not unreasonable for teachers with less experience; however, the decision about whether or not an out-of-state teacher needs additional support may best be left in the hands of school principals.

California should also 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 California. Regardless of whether a teacher was prepared through a traditional or alternate route, all certified out-of-state teachers should receive equal treatment.

Accord the same license to out-of-state alternate route teachers as would be accorded to traditionally prepared teachers.
California should widen its definition of a valid alternate route program, accommodating out-of-state teachers who have completed an alternate route program by removing its condition that alternate route teachers can only have completed a program through a college or university. States that cite the evidence of uneven quality of alternate route programs are ignoring the similarly uneven quality of traditional teacher preparation programs. The policy is also premised in speculation; there are no research findings to suggest that alternate route teachers who completed a regionally accredited program are more effective than those who did not.

State response to our analysis

California recognized the factual accuracy of this analysis. The state added that the Department of Education has no authority or jurisdiction over teacher preparation or credentialing, but rather the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing (CTC), an independent agency, is responsible for teacher licensure. 

Research rationale

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 2007, 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, and J. Deke, An Evaluation of Teachers Trained Through Different Routes to Certification, Final Report. National Center for Education Evaluation and Regional Assistance, Institute of Education Services, U.S. Department of Education (2009), D. Boyd, et al. "How Changes in Entry Requirements Alter the Teacher Workforce and Affect Student Achievement." Education Finance and Policy, (2006).  T. Kane, J. Rockoff, and D. Staiger. "What Does Certification Tell Us About Teacher Effectiveness? Evidence from New York City." National Bureau of Economic Research. (2006), G. Henry and C. Thompson, "Impacts of Teacher Preparation on Student Test Scores in North Carolina." Teacher Portals. University of North Carolina (2010). Z.Xu, J. Hannaway and C. Taylor, "Making a Difference? The Effects of Teach for America in High School." The Urban Institute/Calder. (2009), D. Boyd et al "Recruiting Effective Math Teachers, How Do Math Immersion Teachers Compare? Evidence from New York City." Calder Institute (2009); as well as "How Changes in Entry Requirements Alter the Teacher Workforce and Affect Student Achievement," by Donald Boyd, Pamela Grossman, Hamilton Lankford, Susanna Loeb, and James Wyckoff, National Bureau of Economic Research, December 2005; and "The Effects of Teach For America on Students: Findings from a National Evaluation," (Mathematica Policy Research Inc., 2004).