Licensure Loopholes: Pennsylvania

2011 Exiting Ineffective Teachers Policy

Goal

The state should close loopholes that allow teachers who have not met licensure requirements to continue teaching.

Does not meet
Suggested Citation:
National Council on Teacher Quality. (2011). Licensure Loopholes: Pennsylvania results. State Teacher Policy Database. [Data set].
Retrieved from: https://www.nctq.org/yearbook/state/PA-Licensure-Loopholes-10

Analysis of Pennsylvania's policies

Pennsylvania allows individuals who have not met the state's minimum standards for licensure to teach on emergency permits that expire the last day of summer school in the year they were issued. The state will issue an emergency permit to individuals who hold a bachelor's degree if no qualified teachers can be found for the position. The permit may be renewed if the applicant has completed nine semester hours in a state-approved teacher preparation program. An emergency permit may be issued up to an additional two years to enable the individual to complete and pass all testing requirements for full state certification.

Recommendations for Pennsylvania

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. Pennsylvania 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. Pennsylvania's current policy puts students at risk by allowing teachers to teach on an emergency permits for up to three years without passing required licensing tests. 

State response to our analysis

Pennsylvania recognized the factual accuracy of this analysis.

How we graded

Teachers who have not passed licensing tests may 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.

Research rationale

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 100 No. 1 (1992): 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 (2010).