Licensure Reciprocity: Florida

2011 Expanding the Pool of Teachers Policy

Goal

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

Meets a small part
Suggested Citation:
National Council on Teacher Quality. (2011). Licensure Reciprocity: Florida results. State Teacher Policy Database. [Data set].
Retrieved from: https://www.nctq.org/yearbook/state/FL-Licensure-Reciprocity-7

Analysis of Florida's policies

Regrettably, Florida grants a waiver for its licensing tests to any out-of-state teacher with a comparable standard certificate.

Teachers with comparable out-of-state certificates are eligible for Florida's professional certificate. There is no state-mandated recency requirement; however, transcripts are required for all applicants. 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.

Based on statutory language, it also appears that Florida will issue a comparable license to an out-of-state teacher who was prepared under an alternate route.

Florida 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.

Citation

Recommendations for Florida

To uphold standards, require that teachers coming from other states meet testing requirements.
Florida takes considerable risk by granting a waiver for its licensing tests to any out-of-state teacher with a standard certificate. The state should not provide any waivers of its teacher tests unless an applicant can provide evidence of a passing score under its own standards. The negative impact on student learning stemming from a teacher's inadequate subject-matter knowledge is not mitigated by the teacher's having a certificate from another state.

Accord the same license to out-of-state alternate route teachers as would be accorded to traditionally prepared teachers.
Florida should 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 Florida. Regardless of whether a teacher was prepared through a traditional or alternate route, all certified out-of-state teachers should receive equal treatment.

State response to our analysis

Florida asserted that it has established full reciprocity with all states, and that a valid standard certificate from another state is verification that the applicant has met all Florida requirements for the professional certificate, including mastery of general knowledge, professional education competence and subject content. Florida further contended that all states require a subject-knowledge test for their professional license, and the state does not accept provisional/emergency certificates for reciprocity purposes. 

Florida added that it does not conduct transcript analysis for certification via reciprocity. Transcripts are required to document that the applicant has earned a bachelor's degree from an accredited institution or the equivalent, which is required by law for all applicants regardless of certification pathway. 

Last word

Not all states have adopted subject-matter testing as a condition of licensure, and some states have considerably lower testing standards than Florida has. Therefore, Florida is urged to require all out-of-state teacher candidates to meet its minimum testing requirements. 

In addition, the submission of transcripts should be unnecessary for certified out-of-state teachers, unless the state has some reason to suspect that the certifying state routinely licenses teachers who do not have a degree. 

How we graded

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.

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.

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:
http://www.ncbex.org/ .

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).