Extended Emergency Licenses: Rhode Island

Exiting Ineffective Teachers Policy


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

Nearly meets goal
Suggested Citation:
National Council on Teacher Quality. (2013). Extended Emergency Licenses: Rhode Island results. State Teacher Policy Database. [Data set].
Retrieved from: https://www.nctq.org/yearbook/state/RI-Extended-Emergency-Licenses-24

Analysis of Rhode Island's policies

Rhode Island allows teachers who have not met licensure requirements to teach under its emergency permit. This permit is valid for one year and may be issued to individuals who lack the requirements for the professional certificate if the local superintendent can document that a certified teacher is unavailable.  

The emergency permit is available for renewal only if the applicant demonstrates successful education experience while serving on an Emergency Permit, provides evidence of a minimum of three credits of coursework toward specified renewal requirements, and "provides evidence of meeting all other specified renewal requirements including certification assessments and experience requirements."


Recommendations for Rhode Island

Ensure that all teachers pass required subject-matter licensing tests before they enter the classroom.

While Rhode Island's policy offering its alternative license for one year only before requiring teachers to take the obligatory subject-matter tests minimizes the risks of having teachers in classrooms who lack sufficient or appropriate subject-matter knowledge, the state could take its policy a step further and require all teachers to meet subject-matter license requirements prior to entering the classroom.

State response to our analysis

Rhode Island asserted that it does not allow educators to work any portion of their day outside their certificate area as is a practice in several states. The emergency permit is only allowed in emergency situations where an appropriate teacher cannot be found, and children are in classes. The initial review for an emergency does ensure minimal background in the content area. As one might predict, these permits are most common in secondary math, physics, and English language instruction areas. The state pointed out that it issues about 200 emergency permits each year out of the over 10,000 working teachers.

Last word

NCTQ commends Rhode Island for only using the emergency permits sparingly, but it insists that 200 teachers per year is still thousands of students who are not being provided with the best possible teachers but rather with teachers who could be ineffective or inexperienced in the subject matter.

Research rationale

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.