The state should close loopholes that allow teachers who have not met licensure requirements to continue teaching.
Effective September 1, 2015, teachers will need to pass the appropriate Praxis II test to be granted a subject-specific endorsement.
Nebraska allows teachers who have not passed their licensing tests to teach under an emergency teaching certificate. The state offers a Provisional Teaching Certificate and a Provisional Commitment Teaching Certificate. The Provisional Teaching Certificate requires completion of a teacher education program, while the Provisional Commitment Teaching Certificate requires employment in a Nebraska school system and an undergraduate degree but only partial completion of a teacher education program. Although the state has recently adopted requirements that most teacher candidates must pass subject-matter tests for initial licensure, there is no indication that such tests are required for these provisional certificates.
Nebraska Department of Education: Rule 21, Title 92 Nebraska Administrative Code, Chapter 21 Section 006 & 008 http://www.sos.ne.gov/rules-and-regs/regsearch/Rules/Education_Dept_of/Title-92/Chapter-21.pdf http://www.education.ne.gov/EducatorPrep/IHE/SkillsTesting/ContentTestScores.pdf http://www.education.ne.gov/tcert/pdfs/manual.pdf
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, instead extending personal consideration to adults who may not be able to meet minimal state standards. Nebraska should ensure that all teachers pass licensing tests— an important minimum benchmark for entering the profession—before entering the classroom.
Limit exceptions to one year.
There might be limited and exceptional circumstances under which conditional or emergency licenses need to be granted. In these instances, it is reasonable for a state to give teachers up to one year to pass required licensing tests. Nebraska's current policy puts students at risk by allowing teachers to teach on provisional certificates indefinitely without passing required licensing tests.
Nebraska noted that Conditional Permit and Provisional Certificates are issued on a one-year basis and asserted that the state takes the licensing of teachers very seriously. Although it does not meet NCTQ's criteria, Nebraska indicated that it does not accept that the state is "putting students at risk" and/or "abandoning" the responsibility of providing effective teachers for Nebraska students. One can find a range of research, including that which supports that there is no substantive research that proves that passing a content test will assure that a teacher will excel as a teacher and produce better student achievement outcomes. At best, as NCTQ indicates, a content test is a minimal standard, and Nebraska contended a belief that the state can do better than that.
In a subsequent response, Nebraska indicated that individuals holding provisional certificates will be required to pass a content test. At a minimum, passage of the test would be required prior to issuing a regular certificate. Provisional certificates are issued based on the applicant having a basis in the content knowledge in the endorsement area.
NCTQ agrees that passing a content test provides no assurance that a teacher will excel and produce better student achievement outcomes. But one cannot teach what one does not know, and it is therefore virtually a certainty that teachers lacking in sufficient and appropriate content knowledge will not excel or produce better student achievement outcomes.
Teachers who have not passed licensing subject-matter 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 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.
Extended Emergency Licenses: Supporting Research
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, Volume 100, No. 1, February 1992, pp. 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, December 2010.