The state should close loopholes that allow teachers who have not met licensure requirements to continue teaching.
Georgia allows one-year waiver certificates to be issued at the request of an employing school system to individuals who have not satisfied all certification requirements, including content assessments. To be eligible for a waiver certificate, the applicant must have a bachelor's degree, a cumulative GPA of 2.5 or higher and adequate time to complete requirements within one year. The waiver certificate is valid for one year and may not be renewed.
Georgia Professional Standards Commission Rule 505-2-.07
Ensure that all teachers pass required subject-matter licensing tests before they enter the classroom.
While Georgia's policy offering waiver certificates for one year only minimizes the risks brought about by having teachers in classrooms who lack sufficient or appropriate subject-matter knowledge, the state could take its policy a step further and require all teachers to meet subject-matter licensure requirements prior to entering the classroom.
By tying requirements to highly qualified status, it appears that the state is putting the burden on districts to ensure that teachers have passed tests for the grades and subjects they teach. A license should mean that a teacher is prepared to teach any subjects or grades covered under that certificate.
Teachers who have not passed licensing subject-matter tests 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.
Extended Emergency Licenses: Supporting Research
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, Volume 100, No. 1, February 1992, pp. 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, December 2010.