Part-Time Teaching Licenses: Tennessee

Expanding the Pool of Teachers Policy


The state should offer a license with minimal requirements that allows content experts to teach part time.

Nearly meets goal
Suggested Citation:
National Council on Teacher Quality. (2015). Part-Time Teaching Licenses: Tennessee results. State Teacher Policy Database. [Data set].
Retrieved from:

Analysis of Tennessee's policies

Tennessee offers the Adjunct License for part-time teaching.

The Adjunct License is a one-year license issued to candidates who hold at least a bachelor's degree and "have verified knowledge of the teaching content area." Candidates are also required to complete a preservice preparation program approved by the state.

Applicants working under the Adjunct License may not teach more than three classes. The Adjunct License can only be used in a critical shortage subject area. The license can be renewed up to nine times.


Recommendations for Tennessee

Require applicants to pass a subject-matter test.
Tennessee is commended for offering a license that increases districts' flexibility to staff certain subjects, including many STEM areas, that are frequently hard to staff or may not have high enough enrollment to necessitate a full-time position. Although this license is designed to enable individuals who have significant content knowledge to teach, Tennessee should still require a subject-matter test.  While the state does require "verification," only a subject-matter test ensures that teachers on the Adjunct License know the specific content they will need to teach.

Ensure that preservice training addresses the immediate needs of an adjunct teacher.
While Tennessee is commended for providing teachers on this license with training before they enter the classroom, the state should ensure that this training is streamlined and geared toward immediate needs, such as classroom management. Excessive preservice requirements may be a disincentive for individuals to pursue this license.

State response to our analysis

Tennessee recognized the factual accuracy of this analysis.

Research rationale

Part-time licenses can help alleviate severe shortages, especially in STEM subjects. 
Some of the subject areas in which states face the greatest teacher shortages are also areas that require the deepest subject-matter expertise.  Staffing shortages are further exacerbated because schools or districts may not have high enough enrollments to necessitate full-time positions.  Part-time licenses can be a creative mechanism to get content experts to teach a limited number of courses.  Of course, a fully licensed teacher is best, but when that isn't an option, a part-time license allows students to benefit from content experts—individuals who are not interested in a full-time teaching position and are thus unlikely to pursue traditional or alternative certification.  States should limit requirements for part-time licenses to those that verify subject-matter knowledge and address public safety, such as background checks.

Part-Time Teaching Licenses: Supporting Research
The origin of this goal is the effort to find creative solutions to the STEM crisis. While teaching waivers are not typically used this way, teaching waivers could be used to allow competent professionals from outside of education to be hired as part-time instructors to teach courses such as Advanced Placement chemistry or calculus as long as the instructor demonstrates content knowledge on a rigorous test.  See NCTQ, "Tackling the STEM Crisis: Five steps your state can take to improve the quality and quantity of its K-12 math and science teachers", at:

For the importance of teachers' general academic ability, see R. Ferguson, "Paying for Public Education: New Evidence on How and Why Money Matters," Harvard Journal on Legislation,Volume 28, Summer 1991, pp. 465-498.

For more on math and science content knowledge, see D. Monk, "Subject Area Preparation of Secondary Mathematics and Science Teachers and Student Achievement," Economics of Education Review, Volume 13, No. 2, June 1994, pp. 125-145; R. Murnane, "Understanding the Sources of Teaching Competence: Choices, Skills, and the Limits of Training," Teachers College Record, Volume 84, No. 3, 1983, pp. 564-569.