Licensure Loopholes: Utah

2011 Exiting Ineffective Teachers Policy


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

Nearly meets
Suggested Citation:
National Council on Teacher Quality. (2011). Licensure Loopholes: Utah results. State Teacher Policy Database. [Data set].
Retrieved from:

Analysis of Utah's policies

As of January 1, 2011, Utah requires all licensure candidates to submit passing scores on designated content tests to be eligible for initial licensure.

However, the state also allows alternate route teachers to teach on a temporary license for up to three years while they fulfill licensure requirements, including passing subject-matter tests.


Recommendations for Utah

Ensure that all teachers pass required subject-matter licensing tests before they enter the classroom.
Utah is commended for requiring that all licensure candidates pass designated content tests for initial licensure. However, the state continues to permit teachers on Alternate Route Licenses to teach in classrooms for three years before passing required subject-matter tests. While the state may find it appropriate to delay pedagogy assessments for these teachers, alternate route teachers—like all teachers—should have sufficient and appropriate content knowledge when they begin teaching. Utah could take its policy a step further and require all teachers to meet subject-matter licensure requirements prior to entering the classroom.

State response to our analysis

Utah asserted that ARL candidates are required to pass their content assessments during their first year of ARL participation. The state said that passage of this assessment is required "to proceed from temporary license status" (R277-503-4(B)(1)).  Utah added that this references an ARL candidate spending the first year in ARL on a Letter of Authorization and then moving to an ARL license (R277-503-4(B)(5)). An ARL candidate that does not pass their content assessment is therefore not eligible to participate in ARL during year two or three.       

Last word

NCTQ commends Utah for the progress it has made on this goal. Regarding the ARL license, it appears that the state's intent is to have a strong policy in place that requires candidates to pass content tests before being awarded an ARL license. However, the state might want to consider clarifying its language to reflect that intent, as it currently seems possible that candidates are only required to submit a score on the test, not necessarily a passing score.

How we graded

Teachers who have not passed licensing tests may 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.

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).