The state should base licensure advancement on evidence of teacher effectiveness. This goal was consistent between 2015 and 2017.
Evidence of Effectiveness: Rhode Island's requirements for licensure advancement and renewal are based on evidence of teacher effectiveness. However, a teacher does not need to be effective in the classroom in order to have his or her license advanced or renewed.
Advancing to a Professional License: To advance from the initial educator certificate to the professional educator certificate, Rhode Island requires that teachers demonstrate successful practice by providing evidence of at least one rating of developing or higher on the state's evaluation system during the three-year term of the initial educator certificate.
Renewing a Professional License: Rhode Island's conditions for renewal vary based on evaluation results. If a teacher earns five ratings of effective or higher, then the professional certificate is renewed for five years. If a teacher earns at least four ratings of highly effective with no rating below effective, then the professional certificate is renewed for seven years. If a teacher demonstrates successful practice by providing evidence of at least one rating of developing or higher on the state's evaluation system, then the certificate is renewed for five years with the submission of professional development for each developing or ineffective rating.
Require evidence of effectiveness as a part of teacher licensing policy.
Rhode Island should require evidence of teacher effectiveness to be a factor in determining whether teachers may renew or advance to a higher-level license. The state should require that "successful practice" be evidenced by an effective rating on its teacher evaluation system.
Discontinue licensure requirements with no direct connection to classroom effectiveness.
Although some targeted requirements may potentially expand teacher knowledge and improve teacher practice, Rhode Island's general, nonspecific coursework requirements for license renewal merely call for teachers to complete a certain amount of seat time. These requirements do not correlate with teacher effectiveness.
Rhode Island recognized the factual accuracy of this analysis.
9A: Licensure Advancement
The reason for probationary licensure should be to determine teacher effectiveness. Most states grant new teachers a probationary license that must later be converted to an advanced or professional license. A probationary period is sound policy as it provides an opportunity to determine whether individuals merit professional licensure. However, very few states require any determination of teacher performance or effectiveness in deciding whether a teacher will advance from the probationary license. Instead, states generally require probationary teachers to fulfill a set of requirements to receive advanced certification. Therefore, ending the probationary period is based on whether a checklist has been completed rather than on teacher performance and effectiveness.
Most state requirements for achieving professional certification have not been shown to affect teacher effectiveness. Unfortunately, not only do most states fail to connect advanced certification to actual evidence of teacher effectiveness, but also the requirements teachers must most often meet are not even related to teacher effectiveness. The most common requirement for professional licensure is completion of additional coursework, often resulting in a master's degree. Requiring teachers to obtain additional training in their teaching area would be meaningful; however, the requirements are usually vague, allowing the teacher to fulfill coursework requirements from long menus that include areas having no connection or use to the teacher in the classroom. The research evidence on requiring a master's degree is quite conclusive: with rare exceptions, these degrees have not been shown to make teachers more effective. This is likely due in no small part to the fact that teachers may not attain master's degrees in their subject areas.
In addition to their dubious value, these requirements may also serve as a disincentive to teacher retention. Talented probationary teachers may be unwilling to invest time and resources in more education coursework. Further, they may well pursue advanced degrees that facilitate leaving teaching.