The state should help to make licenses fully portable among states, with appropriate safeguards.
Regrettably, Georgia grants waivers for all of its licensing tests to any out-of-state teacher who has at least three years of experience in the last five years.
Teachers with current, comparable out-of-state certificates are eligible for Georgia's professional certificate. To qualify, teachers must meet the state's recency requirement of one year of out-of-state teacher experience within the last five years or six semester hours of continuing education units in the past five years. Georgia requires additional coursework in special education, which may be waived with three years of experience in the last five years.
Georgia 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.
In Georgia, online courses may be offered by the state's Virtual School, an online dual enrollment course offered by a postsecondary institution or an approved provider. All teachers who provide instruction through the Georgia Virtual School must be certified by the state's Professional Standards Commission.
Georgia Rule 505-2-.15, -.20 OCGA 20-1-140.1, 20-2-319
To uphold standards, require that teachers coming from other states meet testing requirements.
Georgia takes considerable risk by granting a waiver for its licensing tests to any out-of-state teacher with three years of experience. Georgia 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 recent experience.
Require evidence of effective teaching when determining eligibility for full certification.
Georgia should 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).
Offer a standard license to certified out-of-state teachers, absent unnecessary requirements.
Georgia should reconsider its recency requirement as a means to judge licensure eligibility. Recent coursework or experience is unlikely to positively affect a teacher's effectiveness, and such a requirement may deter effective teachers from applying for licensure in the state. Georgia should also offer out-of-state teachers a test-out option for all coursework requirements.
Ensure that requirements for out-of-state online teachers are not burdensome.
As of school year 2013-2014, all districts must provide opportunities in grades 3-12 for participation in virtual programs. Therefore, although Georgia ensures that those providing instruction through its Virtual School are at least equally as qualified as those who teach in the state, it should strengthen its policy by requiring all online teachers to meet Georgia's requirements, while making certain the requirements do not create unnecessary obstacles for out-of-state teachers.
Georgia was helpful in providing NCTQ with facts that enhanced this analysis. The state added that it, along with other states that do not produce enough of their own teachers, finds that the biggest barrier to bringing in out-of-state teachers is the testing requirement, not the recency of study requirement. Georgia asserted that it believes the recency of study requirement is comparable to what professionals in other fields are expected to do to remain up-to-date in their professions.
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.