Licensure Reciprocity: Nebraska

Expanding the Pool of Teachers Policy


The state should help to make licenses fully portable among states, with appropriate safeguards.

Meets a small part of goal
Suggested Citation:
National Council on Teacher Quality. (2013). Licensure Reciprocity: Nebraska results. State Teacher Policy Database. [Data set].
Retrieved from:

Analysis of Nebraska's policies

Although Nebraska has recently implemented mandatory content testing as a condition of initial licensure for most of its new in-state teachers, it is not clear at this point whether the state will require out-of-state teachers to meet its new testing requirements.  

Teachers with comparable out-of-state certificates are eligible for Nebraska's standard certificate. Applicants are required to have, within the five years prior to application, one year of experience at the same school. Transcripts are also required for all out-of-state teachers; however, it is not clear whether the state analyzes transcripts to determine whether a teacher was prepared through a traditional or alternate route or whether additional coursework will be required.

Nebraska also requires human-relations training, which can either be satisfied with coursework or employment experience.

It is not clear whether online teachers outside Nebraska are required to meet the state's certification requirements. 


Recommendations for Nebraska

To uphold standards, require that teachers coming from other states meet testing requirements. 

Nebraska should insist that out-of-state teachers meet its own testing requirements, and it should not provide any waivers of its teacher tests unless an applicant can provide evidence of a passing score under its own standards. 

Offer a standard license to certified out-of-state teachers, absent unnecessary requirements. 

Nebraska should reconsider its recency requirement regarding experience, as it may deter talented teachers from applying for certification. It should also consider discontinuing its requirement for the submission of transcripts. Transcript analysis is likely to result in additional coursework requirements, even for traditionally prepared teachers; alternate route teachers, on the other hand, may have to virtually begin anew, repeating some, most or all of a teacher preparation program in Nebraska.

Require evidence of effective teaching when determining eligibility for full certification. 

Rather than rely on transcripts to assess credentials, Nebraska should instead require that evidence of teacher effectiveness be considered for all out-of-state candidates. Such evidence is especially important for candidates who come from states that make student growth at least a significant factor of a teacher evaluation (see Goal 3-B). 

Accord the same license to out-of-state alternate route teachers as would be accorded to traditionally prepared teachers. 

Nebraska's implication that teachers may be less effective if they worked in more than one school bears no relationship to any research on teacher quality. This policy constitutes a needless burden on all teachers who may wish to transfer, but it is likely to be a particular burden to alternate route teachers. In the case of an alternate route teacher who has taught on a provisional license for three years while completing his or her preparation—a common scenario—Nebraska's policy would require five years of teaching experience to receive a standard license.

Regardless of whether a teacher was prepared through a traditional or alternate route, all certified out-of-state teachers should receive equal treatment. State policies that discriminate against teachers who were prepared in an alternate route are not supported by evidence. In fact, a substantial body of research has failed to discern differences in effectiveness between alternate and traditional route teachers.

Ensure that requirements for online teachers are as rigorous as those for in-state teachers. 

Nebraska should ensure that online teachers based in other states are at least equally as qualified as those who teach in the state. However, Nebraska should balance the interests of its students in having qualified online instructors with making certain that these requirements do not create unnecessary obstacles for out-of-state teachers. 

State response to our analysis

Nebraska asserted that it is not a transcript-review state and generally issues a license to out-of-state applicants if they hold a regular license—or qualify for a license—in another state, which has been earned by completing a state-approved teacher preparation program at a regionally accredited institution of higher education. The primary purpose of the transcript submission is to verify that they have completed a state-approved teacher preparation program in a regionally accredited institution, and that they meet Nebraska's minimal statutory requirements (human relations and special education). Alternatives for coursework exist for individuals to meet the statutory human relations requirement. Nebraska indicated that it has no regulatory language that requires teaching experience "at the same school."

While it is true that Nebraska expects applicants to complete a state-approved teacher preparation program at a regionally accredited institution of higher education, NCTQ's analysis implies that the only entrance for an out-of-state person is the standard certificate.  Individuals can receive the initial certificate. Experience is not the only option—recent credit will also be honored for issuance of the certificate. For purposes of the standard certificate, requirements are consistent with in-state candidate requirements—and not an extra barrier for out-of-state applicants. The two consecutive years of experience is applicable for issuance of the standard certificate and is applied to in-state and out-of-state teachers. 

The state added that all teachers must hold a Nebraska certificate. It articulates qualifications of synchronous and asynchronous course delivery, which allows for an out-of-state individual to teach a course without Nebraska certification, provided the courses/students are "supervised" by state-certified personnel. 

Research rationale

Using transcripts to judge teacher competency provides little value.

In an attempt to ensure that teachers have the appropriate professional and subject-matter knowledge base when granting certification, states often review a teacher's college transcript, no matter how many years earlier a bachelor's degree was earned. A state certification specialist reviews the college transcript, looking for course titles that appear to match state requirements. If the right matches are not found, a teacher may be required to complete additional coursework before receiving standard licensure. This practice holds true even for experienced teachers who are trying to transfer from another state, regardless of experience or success level. The application of these often complex state rules results in unnecessary obstacles to hiring talented and experienced teachers. Little evidence indicates that reviewing a person's undergraduate coursework improves the quality of the teaching force or ensures that teachers have adequate knowledge.

New evaluation systems coming on line across the country which prioritize effectiveness and evidence of student learning (see Goal 3-B) offer an opportunity to bypass counterproductive efforts like transcript review and get to the heart of the matter:  is the out of state teacher seeking licensure in a new state an effective teacher? 

Testing requirements should be upheld, not waived.

While many states impose burdensome coursework requirements, they often fail to impose minimum standards on licensure tests. Instead, they offer waivers to veteran teachers transferring from other states, thereby failing to impose minimal standards of professional and subject-matter knowledge. In upholding licensure standards for out-of-state teachers, the state should be flexible in its processes but vigilant in its verification of adequate knowledge. Too many states have policies and practices that reverse these priorities, focusing diligently on comparison of transcripts to state documents while demonstrating little oversight of teachers' knowledge. If a state can verify that a teacher has taught successfully and has the required subject-matter and professional knowledge, its only concern should be ensuring that the teacher is familiar with the state's student learning standards.

States licensing out-of-state teachers should not differentiate between experienced teachers prepared in alternate routes and those prepared in traditional programs.

It is understandable that states are wary of accepting alternate route teachers from other states, since programs vary widely in quality. However, the same wide variety in quality can be found in traditional programs. If a teacher comes from another state with a standard license and can pass the state's licensure tests, whether the preparation was traditional or alternative should be irrelevant.

Licensure Reciprocity: Supporting Research

Many professions have gone further than teaching in encouraging interstate mobility. The requirements for attorneys, for example, are complicated, but often offer certain kinds of flexibility, such as allowing them to answer a small set of additional questions. See the Comprehensive Guide to Bar Admissions Requirements 2014, published by the National Conference of Bar Examiners and the American Bar Association, available at

On the similarity in effectiveness between graduates of traditional and alternative programs, see J. Constantine, D. Player, T. Silva, K. Hallgren, M. Grider, J. Deke, and E. Warner, An Evaluation of Teachers Trained Through Different Routes to Certification, Final Report. February 2009, U.S. Department of Education, NCEE 2009-4043. D. Boyd, P. Grossman, H. Lankford, S. Loeb, and J. Wyckoff, "How Changes in Entry Requirements Alter the Teacher Workforce and Affect Student Achievement." NBER Working Paper No. 11844, December 2005. T. Kane, J. Rockoff, and D. Staiger. "What Does Certification Tell Us About Teacher Effectiveness? Evidence from New York City." NBER Working Paper No.12155, April 2006. G. Henry, C. Thompson, K. Bastian, C. Fortner, D. Kershaw, K. Purtell, R. Zulli, A. Mabe, and A. Chapman, "Impacts of Teacher Preparation on Student Test Scores in North Carolina: Teacher Portals". The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Carolina Institute for Public Policy, 2010, 34p. Z. Xu, J. Hannaway, and C. Taylor, "Making a Difference?  The Effects of Teach for America in High School." The Urban Institute/Calder, Working Paper 17, April 2007. D. Boyd, P. Grossman, K. Hammerness. H. Lankford, S. Loeb, M. Ronfeldt, and J. Wyckoff, "Recruiting Effective Math Teachers: How Do Math Immersion Teachers Compare?: Evidence from New York City." NBER Working Paper No.16017, May 2010; as well as "How Changes in Entry Requirements Alter the Teacher Workforce and Affect Student Achievement," by D. Boyd, P. Grossman, H. Lankford, S. Loeb, and J. Wyckoff, NBER Working Paper No.11844, December 2005; and "The Effects of Teach For America on Students: Findings from a National Evaluation," by P. Decker, D. Mayer, and S. Glazerman, Mathematica Policy Research Inc., 2004.