Provisional and Emergency Licensure:
Massachusetts

Hiring Policy

Goal

The state should close loopholes that allow teachers who have not met licensure requirements to continue teaching. This goal was reorganized in 2021.

Does not meet
Suggested Citation:
National Council on Teacher Quality. (2021). Provisional and Emergency Licensure: Massachusetts results. State Teacher Policy Database. [Data set].
Retrieved from: https://www.nctq.org/yearbook/state/MA-Provisional-and-Emergency-Licensure-94

Analysis of Massachusetts's policies

Emergency License(s) Availability: Massachusetts offers two waivers: the licensure hardship waiver and the critical shortage waiver. Either waiver may be utilized after a district demonstrates it has made a "good faith effort" to hire fully licensed personnel and were unable to do so. Districts that wish to issue a hardship waiver for a special education position, may only issue it to an applicant if currently enrolled in a preparation program the area of special education, or is currently licensed and is provided structural guidance and supports by the district.

School districts may employ a retired educator on a critical shortage waiver to fill a critical shortage area.

Emergency License Validity Period: Massachusetts' licensure hardship waiver is valid for one year and persons employed on this waiver must demonstrate continuous progress toward meeting licensure requirements in the area of the waiver in order for additional waivers to be issued. Passage of content tests is one of many options for demonstrating continuous progress.  Additionally, persons employed on a licensure hardship waiver must receive a rating of "needs improvement" or higher in the preceding school year. There is no limit to the number of hardship waivers a district may secure for an individual as long as they demonstrate continuous progress towards meeting licensure requirements.  The district must demonstrate that a good faith effort was made to fill a position with  licensed teacher, each time they issue a hardship waiver to the same individual.

The critical shortage area waiver is valid for one year and renewals "will generally not be approved" unless the holder switches to part-time or has their retirement benefits suspended while teaching on the critical shortage waiver.

COVID-19 State Policy: Massachusetts has implemented the following changes to its rules regarding Provisional and Emergency Licensure. People teaching under a licensure hardship waiver who are unable show continuous progress toward meeting the state's licensure requirements "should be prepared to submit an explanation to the Department regarding why they could not make continuous progress."  Additionally the state created an emergency license. This license is valid through June 30, 2021, and license holders that wish to continue teaching must obtain either a temporary, initial, or provisional license.  COVID-19 policies do not affect the state's grade in Provisional and Emergency Licensure.

Requirements for Out-of-State Teachers: Because licensure requirements for out-of-state teachers are scored in Requirements for Out-of-State Teachers, only the state's policies regarding emergency/provisional license(s) are considered as part of this goal.

Citation

Recommendations for Massachusetts

Ensure that all teachers pass required subject-matter licensing tests before they enter the classroom.
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, because it enables adults who may not be able to meet minimal state standards to earn teaching licenses. Massachusetts should ensure that all teachers are required to pass licensing tests — an important minimum benchmark for entering the profession —before entering the classroom as the teacher of record.

Limit exceptions to one year.
Although suboptimal, there may be limited and exceptional circumstances under which conditional or emergency licenses are necessary. In these instances, it is reasonable for a state to give teachers up to one year to pass required licensing tests. Massachusetts's current policy puts students at risk by allowing teachers to teach on licensure waivers for three years without passing required subject-matter licensing tests.

State response to our analysis

Massachusetts was helpful in providing NCTQ with facts than enhanced this analysis. Additionally, the state disputes NCTQ's characterization of waivers as emergency licenses. Licenses are obtained directly by an individual candidate/educator with the department. Waivers are not granted directly to individuals, but rather to a district for employability in specific circumstances.


Updated: March 2021

How we graded

6B: Provisional and Emergency Licensure 

  • Content knowledge: The state:
    • Should not, under any circumstance, award a license to a teacher who has not passed all required content licensing tests.
    • If it finds it necessary to confer emergency or provisional licenses to teachers who have not passed the required licensing tests, should do so only under limited and exceptional circumstances and ensure that all requirements are met within one year.
Content Knowledge
The total goal score is earned based on the following:

  • Full credit: The state will earn full credit if all new teachers are required to pass each required content test as a condition of receiving provisional or emergency licensure, or the state does not issue emergency or provisional licenses. A state cannot get full credit in this goal if content tests are not required as part of its initial licensure policy.
  • Three-quarters credit: The state will earn three-quarters of a point if it grants emergency or provisional licenses to teachers who have not passed the required content tests, but such licenses are granted for no more than one year and are not renewable. OR The state will earn three-quarters of a point if it grants an emergency or provisional license to a licensed teacher to teach out-of-field for no more than one-year without passing the applicable content test.
  • One-half credit: The state will earn up to one-half of a point if it allows for emergency or provisional licenses to be granted for longer than one year, but the state has strong requirements for applicants (e.g., content area major or preparation program completion without requiring a content test). The state will also earn one-half of a point if the state does not issue emergency/provisional licenses, or issues emergency/provisional licenses with strong requirements, but content tests are not required as part of the state's overall initial licensure policy.
  • One-quarter credit: The state will earn one-quarter of a point if it maintains minimum requirements that fall short of the requirements listed above or only offers emergency or provisional licenses to teachers under "extenuating circumstances."

Research rationale

Teachers who have not passed content licensing 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.[1] 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 minimum state standards.[2]

While some flexibility may be necessary because licensing tests are not always administered with the needed frequency, making provisional certificates and waivers available year after year could signal that 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.


[1] Research often finds a correlation between teachers' content knowledge and their effectiveness. For how this effect can play out in elementary ELA, see: Carlisle, J. F., Correnti, R., Phelps, G., & Zeng, J. (2009). Exploration of the contribution of teachers' knowledge about reading to their students' improvement in reading. Reading and Writing, 22(4), 457-486.; For how this effect can occur in secondary STEM subjects, see: Monk, D. (1994). Subject-area preparation of secondary mathematics and science teachers and student achievement. Economics of Education Review, 13(2), 125-145; For broader information about teacher qualities and student achievement, see: Goldhaber, D. D., & Brewer, D. J. (1997). Why don't schools and teachers seem to matter? Assessing the impact of unobservables on educational productivity. Journal of Human Research, 32(3), 505-523.; National Council on Teacher Quality. (2010). The all-purpose science teacher: An analysis of loopholes in state requirements for high school science teachers. Retrieved from http://www.nctq.org/p/publications/docs/NCTQ_All_Purpose_Science_Teacher.pdf.
[2] 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: Hanushek, E. A. (1992). The trade-off between child quantity and quality. Journal of Political Economy, 100(1), 84-117.; Hanushek has also found that highly effective teachers can improve future student earnings by more than $400,000, assuming a class size of 20. Hanushek, E. A. (2011). The economic value of higher teacher quality. Economics of Education Review, 30(3), 466-479. Retrieved from http://www.nber.org/papers/w16606