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: Tennessee allows teachers with valid out-of-state certificates comparable to its professional license to be eligible for a practitioner license, without specifying any additional coursework or recency requirements to determine eligibility.
Evidence of Effectiveness: Tennessee does not require evidence of effective teaching during previous employment in its reciprocity policy.
Testing Requirement: Tennessee eventually requires candidates to submit qualifying scores on required content assessments. However, Tennessee does grant the practitioner license, with a three-year validity period, and allows the submission of these scores prior to renewing or advancing this initial license.
Additional Requirements: Tennessee 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, Tennessee 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.)
Ensure that out-of-state teachers meet testing requirements in a timely manner.
Although Tennessee requires out-of-state teachers to meet its own testing standards, the state allows up to three years for this important requirement to be met. Tennessee is encouraged to strengthen its policy and not allow a teacher to be in a classroom more than one year without having met the state's testing standards.
Require a criminal-history background check.
As a condition of licensure, Tennessee 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 Tennessee's criminal background check.
Tennessee recognized the factual accuracy of this analysis. The state also noted that it would welcome further information about how to best require evidence of effective teaching in previous employment and wondered if any other states are doing this.
Tennessee also noted that districts run background checks, and the state has a system in place to flag applicants who have been flagged in the NASDTEC database.
Several other states are incorporating evidence of effectiveness into their reciprocity policies. For example, New York requires out-of-state teachers to submit proof of effective or highly effective evaluation ratings for each of the three most recent years of experience. Delaware requires that all out-of-state teachers (both traditional and alternate routes) have at least three years of "successful" experience, which may be demonstrated by submitting two satisfactory evaluations from another jurisdiction that Delaware finds equivalent to its own overall evaluations. The District of Columbia requires out-of-state teachers to submit proof of two years of effective teaching experience, as measured by an overall evaluation rating based upon the student growth component of an evaluation rating.
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.