The state should offer a license with minimal requirements that allows content experts to teach part time.
Utah offers the Eminence Letter of Authorization as a
part-time license. The Eminence Authorization is designed to allow individuals
with exceptional training or expertise to teach on a limited basis. Candidates
under this license may not teach more than 37 percent of the regular
The state requires documentation of exceptional training, skills or expertise but does not specify the evidence necessary to meet such requirements. Applicants must also pass a background check.
Require applicants to pass a subject-matter test.
Utah 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, Utah should still require a subject-matter test. While the state does require documentation of expertise and skills, only a subject-matter test ensures that teachers on the Eminence Letter of Authorization know the specific content they will need to teach.
Utah noted that the state now allows for "Expanded Eminence" for educators beyond 37 perscent of the regular instruction load. The guidelines and review process for these types of eminence are significantly more involved then "regular" eminence requests. To date, four of these types of eminence requests have been made and two have been approved. This option is available only if all other licensing options have been exhausted.
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 licensure requirements 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: http://www.nctq.org/p/docs/nctq_nmsi_stem_initiative.pdf.
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.