Licensure Reciprocity: Rhode Island

2011 Expanding the Pool of Teachers Policy

Goal

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

Meets a small part
Suggested Citation:
National Council on Teacher Quality. (2011). Licensure Reciprocity: Rhode Island results. State Teacher Policy Database. [Data set].
Retrieved from: https://www.nctq.org/yearbook/state/RI-Licensure-Reciprocity-7

Analysis of Rhode Island's policies

Rhode Island does not support licensure reciprocity for certified teachers from other states. Regrettably, Rhode Island grants a waiver for its licensing tests to out-of-state teachers who have passed tests in their previous states, regardless of whether or not they have met Rhode Island's passing scores.

Teachers with comparable out-of-state certificates may be eligible for Rhode Island's standard certificate. Applicants are required to complete an approved teacher education program. However, it appears that the state offers "enhanced reciprocity" for alternate route teachers, who must have three years of experience and submit transcripts, which are then possibly reviewed by a state official, who then determines what additional coursework must be taken to qualify for a license. This process discounts previous experience and training, resulting in teachers having to repeat some, most or all of a teacher preparation program in the new state.

Rhode Island is also a participant in the NASDTEC Interstate Agreement; however, the latest iteration of this agreement no longer purports to be a reciprocity agreement among states and thus is no longer included in this analysis.


Citation

Recommendations for Rhode Island

To uphold standards, require that teachers coming from other states meet testing requirements.
Rhode Island takes considerable risk by granting a waiver for its licensing tests to any out-of-state teacher who has passed a test in another state. It should not provide any waivers of its teacher tests unless an applicant can provide evidence of a passing score under its own standards. The negative impact on student learning stemming from a teacher's inadequate subject-matter knowledge is not mitigated by the teacher's having met another state's standards.

Accord the same license to out-of-state alternate route teachers as would be accorded to traditionally prepared teachers.
Rhode Island should reconsider its recency requirement regarding experience for alternative route teachers, as it may deter talented teachers from applying for certification. Rhode Island should ensure that its experience requirement does not preclude fully certified, alternate route teachers who have completed their preparation from obtaining reciprocal licensure. For example, certified Teach For America teachers who have fulfilled their two-year commitment in other states should be eligible for licensure in Rhode Island.

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. Regardless of whether a teacher was prepared through a traditional or alternate route, all certified out-of-state teachers should receive equal treatment.

State response to our analysis

Rhode Island was helpful in providing NCTQ with facts that enhanced this analysis. The state noted that proposed certification regulations will require all out-of-state teachers to meet the state's testing expectations, and that clearer language around reciprocity practices is include in the proposed regulations. 

Rhode Island also asserted that any individual who holds a full license from another state is eligible for licensure in Rhode Island. The state added that it does not send alternate route candidates for additional coursework if they have completed an approved program, or if they hold the full state license. It also pointed out that it does not require recency as long as the certificate is currently valid, and that there is no recency of experience requirement used in the decision-making process. Further, Teach For America candidates are eligible for licensure and have been issued Rhode Island certificates after completion of their two-year commitment.  

How we graded

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.

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.

Research rationale

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 2007, published by the National Conference of Bar Examiners and the American Bar Association, available at:
http://www.ncbex.org/ .

On the similarity in effectiveness between graduates of traditional and alternative programs, see  J. Constantine, D. Player, T. Silva, K. Hallgren, M. Grider, and J. Deke, An Evaluation of Teachers Trained Through Different Routes to Certification, Final Report. National Center for Education Evaluation and Regional Assistance, Institute of Education Services, U.S. Department of Education (2009), D. Boyd, et al. "How Changes in Entry Requirements Alter the Teacher Workforce and Affect Student Achievement." Education Finance and Policy, (2006).  T. Kane, J. Rockoff, and D. Staiger. "What Does Certification Tell Us About Teacher Effectiveness? Evidence from New York City." National Bureau of Economic Research. (2006), G. Henry and C. Thompson, "Impacts of Teacher Preparation on Student Test Scores in North Carolina." Teacher Portals. University of North Carolina (2010). Z.Xu, J. Hannaway and C. Taylor, "Making a Difference? The Effects of Teach for America in High School." The Urban Institute/Calder. (2009), D. Boyd et al "Recruiting Effective Math Teachers, How Do Math Immersion Teachers Compare? Evidence from New York City." Calder Institute (2009); as well as "How Changes in Entry Requirements Alter the Teacher Workforce and Affect Student Achievement," by Donald Boyd, Pamela Grossman, Hamilton Lankford, Susanna Loeb, and James Wyckoff, National Bureau of Economic Research, December 2005; and "The Effects of Teach For America on Students: Findings from a National Evaluation," (Mathematica Policy Research Inc., 2004).