Licensure Reciprocity: District of Columbia

2013 Expanding the Pool of Teachers Policy

Goal

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

Does not meet
Suggested Citation:
National Council on Teacher Quality. (2013). Licensure Reciprocity: District of Columbia results. State Teacher Policy Database. [Data set].
Retrieved from: https://www.nctq.org/yearbook/state/DC-Licensure-Reciprocity-21

Analysis of District of Columbia's policies

Regrettably, the District of Columbia grants a waiver for its licensing tests and issues a full license to any out-of-state teacher who meets all of the following conditions: completion of a state-approved preparation program; possession of a valid level II license in the subject area; and passing scores on basic skills, pedagogy and content tests required in the other state. 

Although there is no state-mandated recency requirement for the professional certificate, candidates who do not meet the three conditions above are given a transcript analysis of their credentials, which may result in the requirement of additional coursework and/or state tests. 

The District 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 District students. 

Citation

Recommendations for District of Columbia

To uphold standards, require that teachers coming from other states meet testing requirements. 

The District of Columbia takes considerable risk by granting a waiver for its licensing tests to any out-of-state teacher who has passed a test in another state. 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. 

The District of Columbia should consider adopting a more flexible policy regarding portability. Transcript reviews are not a particularly meaningful or efficient exercise, and the state should consider discontinuing its requirement for the submission of transcripts for all teachers. 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 the District. 

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

Rather than rely on transcripts to assess credentials, the District of Columbia 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). 

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.

Ensure that requirements for online teachers are as rigorous as those for in-state teachers. 

The District of Columbia should ensure that online teachers based in other states are at least equally as qualified as those who teach in the District. However, the District of Columbia 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

The District of Columbia asserted that it only holds licensed program completers to its tests if they did not complete a comparable exam in the state from which they completed a state-approved preparation program. Completers of state-approved programs, both traditional and alternate, are not required to take any additional coursework. The District added that it will update its website to clarify this information. 

Further, the District contended that online teachers serving DCPS students must meet the same licensure requirements as in-classroom DCPS teachers. Its regulations do not make a distinction between online and in-classroom teachers; therefore, the rule applies to all teachers.  

Last word

The District of Columbia should ensure that applicants for licensure meet the District's standards, and not just the standards from the original state.  This does not mean that teachers from other states have to retake licensure exams, but rather that they should be held to the District's passing score requirements, given the range in passing scores required by states.

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.