The state should close loopholes that allow teachers who have not met licensure requirements to continue teaching. This goal was consistent between 2015 and 2017.
Emergency License(s) Availability: Tennessee does not offer emergency licenses. Tennessee's initial license (the Practitioner License) requires admission to or completion of a preparation program, a bachelor's degree and passage of all required content and pedagogy tests. Candidates with a bachelor's degree in a core content area can delay passage of licensure tests for up to three years.
State Board of Education LIcensure Policy 5.502
Ensure that all teachers pass required subject-matter licensing tests before they enter the classroom.
While Tennessee is commended for not allowing teachers in the classroom on an emergency license, the state's new provisional license is problematic in that teachers may potentially teach for up to three years without having passed a content test. The state should require all teachers to meet subject-matter licensure requirements prior to entering the classroom regardless of whether or not they possess a content area major.
Tennessee recognized the factual accuracy of this analysis. The state also indicated that it offers permits for nonlicensed educators, but they are not issued an emergency license.
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.