The state should close loopholes that allow teachers who have not met licensure requirements to continue teaching. This goal was consistent between 2015 and 2017.
Emergency License(s) Availability: Montana has an emergency authorization that can be granted to a district upon request after the position has been advertised statewide. Applicants for an emergency authorization must have "previously held a teacher or specialist license; or (ii) provide acceptable evidence of academic qualifications or significant experience related to the area for which the emergency authorization of employment is being sought."
Emergency License Validity Period: Montana's emergency authorization is valid for one year. It is unclear whether the authorization may be renewed.
Montana Administrative Rules 10.57.107; 410
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. Montana 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. Montana's current policy puts students at risk by allowing teachers to teach on an emergency permit for up to one year or more without passing required subject-matter licensing tests.
Montana recognized the factual accuracy of this analysis; however, the analysis was updated subsequent to the state's response.
6B: Provisional and Emergency Licensure
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. 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.
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.