Licensure Reciprocity: Colorado

2015 Expanding the Pool of Teachers Policy

Goal

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

Does not meet
Suggested Citation:
National Council on Teacher Quality. (2015). Licensure Reciprocity: Colorado results. State Teacher Policy Database. [Data set].
Retrieved from: https://www.nctq.org/yearbook/state/CO-Licensure-Reciprocity-70

Analysis of Colorado's policies

Out-of-state teachers are eligible for Colorado's professional license if they hold a comparable certificate and have at least three years of "continuous, successful, evaluated experience" as a teacher. However, the state does not specifically require evidence of effective teaching during previous employment in its reciprocity policy.

Colorado grants waivers for its licensing tests to out-of-state teachers with three years of teaching experience.

Further, the state requires only alternate route teachers to submit a letter from the organization through which they completed the alternate route program, listing all requirements that the applicant had to meet to qualify for a license.

Colorado is 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 it is therefore not included in this analysis.

Citation

Recommendations for Colorado

Require evidence of effective teaching when determining eligibility for full certification.
To facilitate the movement of effective teachers between states, Colorado should require that evidence of teacher effectiveness, as determined by an evaluation that includes objective measures of student growth, be considered for all out-of-state candidates. Such evidence should indeed be a factor for candidates who come from states that make student growth an important factor of a teacher evaluation, especially in a state such as Colorado, which requires evidence of student growth to be the preponderant criterion of its teacher evaluations (see "Evaluation of Effectiveness" analysis).

To uphold standards, require that teachers coming from other states meet testing requirements. 
Colorado 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. By continuing to allow testing waivers, Colorado cannot be assured that teachers who have passed assessments in other states have met comparable content knowledge expectations.

Accord the same license to out-of-state alternate route teachers as would be accorded to traditionally prepared teachers.
Regardless of whether a teacher was prepared through a traditional or alternate route, all certified out-of-state teachers should receive equal treatment. State policies that discriminate against teachers who were prepared in an alternate route are not supported by evidence. In fact, a substantial body of research has failed to discern differences in effectiveness between alternate and traditional route teachers. Rather than rely on what amounts to transcript analysis for alternate route teachers, Colorado should instead require evidence of effective performance for all  of its out-of-state teachers, regardless of their preparation route. 

State response to our analysis

Colorado asserted that with regard to NCTQ's first recommendation, states across the nation are beginning to develop their own processes for evaluations. Although Colorado is at the forefront of this work, it cannot expect other states to provide effectiveness data at this time.

Colorado also noted that it does not require a letter to be submitted by an applicant if the program is an approved program. 

Last word

Although Colorado is correct in saying that not all states are able to provide effectiveness data at this time, there are certainly enough states with this capacity to warrant such a requirement by Colorado. Colorado could do what Delaware has authorized, and create a streamlined process for any out-of-state teacher who is coming from a state with such evidence, while maintaining the existing process for teachers from other states.

How we graded

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 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.