Licensure Loopholes: Iowa

2011 Exiting Ineffective Teachers Policy

Goal

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

Meets in part
Suggested Citation:
National Council on Teacher Quality. (2011). Licensure Loopholes: Iowa results. State Teacher Policy Database. [Data set].
Retrieved from: https://www.nctq.org/yearbook/state/IA-Licensure-Loopholes-10

Analysis of Iowa's policies

Iowa allows a one-year, nonrenewable teaching license to new teachers who have not met state requirements if a school needs to fill positions under "unique needs circumstances." This license is also available for teachers who hold out-of-state certification but "have not completed all Iowa requirements for a teaching endorsement."

The state has adopted subject-matter testing requirements only for elementary teachers. 

Citation

Recommendations for Iowa

Award standard licenses to teachers only after they have passed all required subject-matter licensing tests.
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. 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. As such, Iowa's current policy should require all teachers—not just elementary teacher candidates—to pass subject-matter tests prior to entering the classroom. The state's current policy, though it only allows one-year, nonrenewable licenses for teachers who have not met state requirements, still puts students at risk.

State response to our analysis

Iowa asserted that its code does not currently allow for a one-year, nonrenewable teaching license.

Last word

Iowa's Administrative Code still has policy that a "nonrenwable Class A license valid for one year" is available. This license is less problematic than emergency licenses in other states, since Iowa articulates a strict time limit and ensures that it is nonrenewable. The larger concern in this goal lies in the fact that Iowa does not require subject-matter testing for all teachers, only for elementary teachers.

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).