The state should help to make licenses fully portable among states for effective teachers, with appropriate safeguards. The bar for this goal was raised in 2017.
Eligibility for Standard License: Rhode Island allows out-of-state teachers with comparable, valid licenses to apply for full certification, without specifying any additional coursework or recency requirements to determine eligibility.
Evidence of Effectiveness: Rhode Island does not require evidence of effective teaching during previous employment in its reciprocity policy.
Testing Requirement: Rhode Island does not grant any waivers on its testing requirements, and all out-of-state teachers, no matter how many years of experience they have, must meet the state's passing scores on licensing tests.
Additional Requirements: Rhode Island requires out-of-state applicants to answer questions on the application about criminal history. If any are answered in the affirmative, then candidates must submit additional documentation.
Require evidence of effective teaching when determining eligibility for full certification.
To facilitate the movement of effective teachers between states, Rhode Island should require that evidence of teacher effectiveness, as determined by an evaluation that includes objective measures of student growth, be considered for all out-of-state candidates. Such evidence should indeed be a factor for candidates who come from states that make student growth a determinative factor of a teacher evaluation. (See 7-A: Student Growth analysis and recommendations.)
Require a criminal-history background check.
As a condition of licensure, Rhode Island should ensure that all out-of-state candidates pass a complete criminal-history background check. Because of differences in state statutes regarding the scope of teacher criminal background checks, a clear criminal background check from another state would not necessarily indicate that a teacher would pass Rhode Island's criminal background check.
Rhode Island recognized the factual accuracy of this analysis. The state added that it also accepts out-of-state alternate route teachers as part of reciprocity. "Approved programs are approved programs whether traditional or alternate." Rhode Island also noted that while a criminal background check is not required under state law for licensure, it is required for employment. The licensure application includes several legal questions that go beyond the information of a background check and serve as triggers for investigation.
6A: Requirements for Out-of-State Teachers
Evidence of effectiveness is far more important than transcript review. 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 their prior success. The application of these often complex state rules results in unnecessary obstacles to hiring talented and experienced teachers. Evaluation systems which prioritize effectiveness and evidence of student learning offer an opportunity to bypass counterproductive efforts like transcript review and get to the heart of the matter: is the out-of-state teacher seeking licensure in a new state an effective teacher?
Testing requirements should be upheld, not waived. While some states have historically imposed burdensome coursework requirements, many have simultaneously failed to impose minimum standards for licensure testing. Instead, some states have offered 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. It is all too common for states to develop 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 variance in quality can be found in traditional programs. If a teacher comes from another state with a standard license and a clean criminal record, has demonstrated evidence of effectiveness, and can pass the state's licensure tests, whether the preparation was traditional or alternative should be irrelevant.