Licensure Loopholes: Tennessee

Exiting Ineffective Teachers Policy


The state should close loopholes that allow teachers who have not met licensure requirements to continue teaching.

Does not meet goal
Suggested Citation:
National Council on Teacher Quality. (2011). Licensure Loopholes: Tennessee results. State Teacher Policy Database. [Data set].
Retrieved from:

Analysis of Tennessee's policies

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) acceptable major in the endorsement area, 2) documentation that they have at least 25 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. 


Recommendations for Tennessee

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 a without passing required licensing tests. 

State response to our analysis

Tennessee asserted that statute 49-5-101 prohibits a teacher who is not properly licensed from receiving pay out of public funds.  

Last word

The policy prohibiting non-licensed teachers to receive pay would not apply to those teachers who hold Interim Type B licenses, defined by the state of Tennessee as being designed for "applicants who meet all licensing requirements but lack minimum qualifying scores on required licensure examinations."

Research rationale

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 100 No. 1 (1992): 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 (2010).