The state should close loopholes that allow teachers who have not met licensure requirements to continue teaching.
Tennessee allows new teachers who have met all licensure requirements, except for passing scores on the licensing exams, to teach under the Interim License Type B. This license is valid for one year and may be renewed once.
The state also allows new teachers to qualify for a Transitional License who have a bachelor's degree and one of the following: 1) an acceptable major in the endorsement area, 2) documentation that they have at least 24 semester hours in the teaching content area or 3) verification that they have passed the required Praxis II content exam for the endorsement area. Teachers holding Transitional Licenses must demonstrate satisfactory annual progress toward completion of all licensure requirements. Teachers may teach on a Transitional License no more than three years. Prior to the second renewal of the Transitional License, the teacher must have passed all required Praxis II content examinations.
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, instead extending personal consideration to adults who may not be able to meet minimal state standards. Tennessee should ensure that all teachers pass licensing tests—an important minimum benchmark for entering the profession—before entering the classroom.
Limit exceptions to one year.
There might be limited and exceptional circumstances under which conditional or emergency licenses need to be granted. In these instances, it is reasonable for a state to give teachers up to one year to pass required licensing tests. Tennessee's current policy puts students at risk by allowing teachers to teach on an Interim License Type B or Transitional license for two years or more without passing required licensing tests.
Tennessee was helpful in providing NCTQ with facts that enhanced this analysis. The state also noted that under the proposed licensure policy, the use of alternative methods of content verification will be available to all candidates, not just candidates enrolled in alternative preparation programs.
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.