The state should close loopholes that allow teachers who have not met licensure requirements to continue teaching. This goal was reorganized in 2021.
Emergency License(s) Availability: Rhode Island offers an Emergency Route Preliminary Certificate when the employing district is unable to find a qualified candidate. The applicant must have a bachelor's degree and "sufficient subject matter preparation to teach in the field but has not demonstrated the level of knowledge through a content assessment."
The state also offers an Expert Residency-Shortages Preliminary Certificate to applicants with a bachelor's degree and subject matter competency in a shortage area. Passage of the applicable content tests is required for issuance.
Rhode Island offers an Expert Residency Preliminary Certificate to applicants with a bachelor's degree and subject matter expertise who can teach while completing a preparation program. Passage of the applicable content tests is required for issuance.
Additionally, the state offers districts hiring flexibility that allows a certified teacher to teach out-of-field 20% of their time, "provided there is evidence of competence in the subject matter and the superintendent and teacher mutually agree to the assignment." There are no specifics of what constitutes "evidence of competence."
Emergency License Validity Period: The Emergency Route Preliminary Certificate is valid for one year and can be renewed three times. Passage of the applicable content test and enrollment in an educator preparation program are required for the first renewal. Progress toward program completion must be documented for subsequent renewals.
The Expert Residency-Shortages Preliminary Certificate is valid for three years and may be renewed once for four additional years. The following conditions are required for renewal:
Rhode Island General Laws 16-11-1 Regulations Governing the Certification of Educators in Rhode Island 200 RICR-20-20-01 https://www.ride.ri.gov/Portals/0/Uploads/Documents/Board-of-Education/Regulations/Certification_200ricr20201_final.pdf COVID-19 Information: https://www.ride.ri.gov/Portals/0/Uploads/Documents/COVID19/COVID-19_Temporary_Initial_Certificate_Guidance_Memo.pdf
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, because it enables adults who may not be able to meet minimal state standards to earn teaching licenses. Rhode Island should ensure that all teachers are required to pass licensing tests — an important minimum benchmark for entering the profession — before entering the classroom as the teacher of record.
Limit exceptions to one year.
Although suboptimal, there may be limited and exceptional circumstances under which conditional or emergency licenses are necessary. In these instances, it is reasonable for a state to give teachers up to one year to pass required licensing tests. Rhode Island's current policy puts students at risk by allowing teachers to teach on waivers for up to seven years on an Expert Residency-Shortages Preliminary Certificate without passing required subject-matter licensing tests.
6B: Provisional and Emergency Licensure
Teachers who have not passed content licensing 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 minimum state standards.
While some flexibility may be necessary because licensing tests are not always administered with the needed frequency, making provisional certificates and waivers available year after year could signal that 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.