The state should base licensure advancement on evidence of teacher effectiveness. This goal was consistent between 2015 and 2017.
Evidence of Effectiveness: Massachusetts's requirements for licensure advancement and renewal are not based on evidence of teacher effectiveness.
Advancing to a Professional License: To advance from an initial to a professional license, Massachusetts requires teachers to complete a one-year induction program with a mentor, have three years' teaching experience, and fulfill 50 hours of a mentored experience beyond the induction year. They are also required to complete one of the following: an approved licensure program for the professional license; a program leading to eligibility for master teacher status, such as those sponsored by the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards; or, for those who have an advanced degree, 12 credits of graduate-level courses in subject-matter knowledge.
Renewing a Professional License: Massachusetts requires teachers to renew their professional licenses every five years by earning 150 professional development points through approved professional development.
Require evidence of effectiveness as a part of teacher licensing policy.
Massachusetts should require evidence of teacher effectiveness to be a factor in determining whether teachers may renew or advance to a higher-level license.
Discontinue license renewal requirements with no direct connection to classroom effectiveness.
Although targeted requirements may potentially expand teacher knowledge and improve teacher practice, Massachusetts's general, nonspecific coursework requirements for license renewal merely call for teachers to complete a certain amount of seat time. These requirements do not correlate with teacher effectiveness.
Massachusetts was helpful in providing NCTQ with facts that enhanced this analysis. The state also indicated that it offers a preliminary/provisional license (name change to provisional approved by the Board in June 2017), and this entry license could be considered a probationary license. Advancing from preliminary/provisional to initial requires completion of a state-approved program, and as part of the program, the candidate must satisfy the Candidate Assessment of Performance, which assesses a teacher candidate's readiness in relation to the professional standards for teachers.
Massachusetts further noted that the requirements to obtain a professional license and license renewal are accurate, and that on June 27th, the Board voted to amend the requirements for renewal of a professional license. Of the 150 Professional Development Points (PDPs) that are required, an educator must earn at least 15 PDPs in each of the following areas: content, pedagogy, ESL/Sheltered English Immersion, and special education/diverse learning styles. This now allows educators to earn up to 90 PDPs in areas in which they and their supervisor think can best benefit their teaching and/or students. Previous regulations prescribed 120 of the 150 PDPs to be in specific areas and limited the educator to focus on a particular skill or the needs of their students.
9A: Licensure Advancement
The reason for probationary licensure should be to determine teacher effectiveness. Most states grant new teachers a probationary license that must later be converted to an advanced or professional license. A probationary period is sound policy as it provides an opportunity to determine whether individuals merit professional licensure. However, very few states require any determination of teacher performance or effectiveness in deciding whether a teacher will advance from the probationary license. Instead, states generally require probationary teachers to fulfill a set of requirements to receive advanced certification. Therefore, ending the probationary period is based on whether a checklist has been completed rather than on teacher performance and effectiveness.
Most state requirements for achieving professional certification have not been shown to affect teacher effectiveness. Unfortunately, not only do most states fail to connect advanced certification to actual evidence of teacher effectiveness, but also the requirements teachers must most often meet are not even related to teacher effectiveness. The most common requirement for professional licensure is completion of additional coursework, often resulting in a master's degree. Requiring teachers to obtain additional training in their teaching area would be meaningful; however, the requirements are usually vague, allowing the teacher to fulfill coursework requirements from long menus that include areas having no connection or use to the teacher in the classroom. The research evidence on requiring a master's degree is quite conclusive: with rare exceptions, these degrees have not been shown to make teachers more effective. This is likely due in no small part to the fact that teachers may not attain master's degrees in their subject areas.
In addition to their dubious value, these requirements may also serve as a disincentive to teacher retention. Talented probationary teachers may be unwilling to invest time and resources in more education coursework. Further, they may well pursue advanced degrees that facilitate leaving teaching.