Licensure Loopholes: Delaware

2011 Exiting Ineffective Teachers Policy


The state should close loopholes that allow teachers who have not met licensure requirements to continue teaching.

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

Analysis of Delaware's policies

Delaware allows new teachers who have not passed required licensing tests to teach on a three-year emergency certificate. The state can issue an emergency certificate if the candidate holds at least an initial license (which requires a passing score on a basic skills test but not a subject-matter test). The employing district is required to submit a plan to assist the certificate recipient in proceeding toward full certification. At the end of each school year, the district must submit evidence that the teacher received a satisfactory evaluation on the Delaware Performance Appraisal System and document the emergency-certificate holder's progress toward meeting certification requirements.


Recommendations for Delaware

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, instead extending personal consideration to adults who may not be able to meet minimal state standards. Delaware should ensure that all teachers have passed their licensing tests—an important minimum benchmark for entering the profession—prior to entering the classroom.

Limit exceptions to one year.
There might be limited and exceptional circumstances under which conditional or emergency licenses need to be granted. In these instances, it is reasonable for a state to give teachers up to one year to pass required licensure tests. However, Delaware's current policy puts students at risk by allowing teachers to teach on emergency certificates for three years without passing required subject-matter tests.

State response to our analysis

Delaware was helpful in providing NCTQ with facts that enhanced this analysis. The state also noted that the Professional Standards Board is finalizing amendments to limit Emergency Certificate validity to one year, with a possible provision for a one-year school extension, provided the educator has made documented progress toward the Standard Certificate. 

Last word

NCTQ looks forward to reviewing Delaware's progress in future editions of the Yearbook and encourages the state to limit the time teachers are granted to pass subject-matter licensing tests to one year only.

How we graded

Teachers who have not passed licensing tests may 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 minimal state standards.

While some flexibility may be necessary because licensing tests are not always administered with the needed frequency, the availability of provisional certificates and waivers year after year signals that even 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.

Research rationale

Research has shown that "the difference in student performance in a single academic year from having a good as opposed to a bad teacher can be more than one full year of standardized achievement." See E. Hanushek, "The Trade-Off between Child Quantity and Quality," The Journal of Political Economy 100 No. 1 (1992): 84-117. Hanushek has also found that highly effective teachers can improve future student earnings by more than $400,000, assuming a class of 20.  "The Economic Value of Higher Teacher Quality." National Bureau of Economic Research. Working Paper 16606 (2010).