Licensure Reciprocity: Virginia

2013 Expanding the Pool of Teachers Policy

Goal

The state should help to make licenses fully portable among states, with appropriate safeguards.

Meets in part
Suggested Citation:
National Council on Teacher Quality. (2013). Licensure Reciprocity: Virginia results. State Teacher Policy Database. [Data set].
Retrieved from: https://www.nctq.org/yearbook/state/VA-Licensure-Reciprocity-21

Analysis of Virginia's policies

Regrettably, Virginia grants a waiver for its licensing tests to teachers who have three years of out-of-state teaching at a public or accredited private school and who hold a full license with no deficiencies.

Teachers with valid out-of-state certificates are eligible for comparable licensure in Virginia. There is no state-mandated recency requirement for the standard certificate; however, transcripts are required for all out-of-state applicants. It is not clear whether the state analyzes transcripts to determine whether a teacher was prepared through a traditional or alternate route or whether additional coursework will be required.

Virginia does require all incoming teachers to complete coursework in technology, for which there appears to be no test-out option. The state also requires training in child abuse recognition and intervention.

Virginia is also a participant in the NASDTEC Interstate Agreement, which outlines which other states' certificates will be accepted by the receiving state. This agreement is not a collection of two-way reciprocal acceptances, nor is it a guarantee that all certificates will be accepted by the receiving state, and is therefore not included in this analysis.

Virginia requires all teachers who deliver instruction through online courses or virtual school programs to be licensed by the state. 

Citation

Recommendations for Virginia

To uphold standards, require that teachers coming from other states meet testing requirements. 

Virginia takes considerable risk by waiving its licensing tests for any out-of-state teacher who has three years of experience. The state should not waive any of its teacher tests unless an applicant can provide evidence of a passing score under its own standards. The negative impact on student learning stemming from a teacher's inadequate subject-matter knowledge is not mitigated by the teacher's having experience.

Offer a standard license to certified out-of-state teachers, absent unnecessary requirements. 

Virginia should consider a test-out option for its additional coursework requirement in technology.

Accord the same license to out-of-state alternate route teachers as would be accorded to traditionally prepared teachers. 

Regardless of whether a teacher was prepared through a traditional or alternate route, all certified out-of-state teachers should receive equal treatment. Virginia should consider discontinuing its requirement for the submission of transcripts. Transcript analysis is likely to result in additional coursework requirements, even for traditionally prepared teachers; alternate route teachers, on the other hand, may have to virtually begin anew, repeating some, most or all of a teacher preparation program in Virginia. 

Require evidence of effective teaching when determining eligibility for full certification. 

Rather than rely on transcripts to assess credentials, Virginia should instead require that evidence of teacher effectiveness be considered for all out-of-state candidates. Such evidence is especially important for candidates who come from states that make student growth at least a significant factor of a teacher evaluation (see Goal 3-B). 

Ensure that requirements for out-of-state online teachers are not burdensome

Secondary students in Virginia are required to complete one online course prior to graduation. Virginia should therefore balance the interests of its students in having qualified online instructors with making certain that these requirements do not create unnecessary obstacles for out-of-state teachers. 

State response to our analysis

Virginia asserted that school divisions and colleges and universities may provide a test-out option to meet the technology standards. 

The state added that transcripts are required to verify degrees, and that transcript reviews are not conducted for those becoming licensed via reciprocity, including those who gained full licensure in another state via an alternate route. Further, Virginia pointed to its code section pertaining to reciprocity: An out-of-state teacher may qualify for a Virginia teaching license with comparable endorsement areas if the individual has completed a state-approved preparation program, or if he or she holds a valid out-of-state license. To be exempt from Virginia's professional teacher's assessment requirements, individuals must have three years of successful full-time experience. 

Virginia's Board of Education has proposed an online license to assist individuals who may have experience in online instruction but do not have traditional preparation. 

Last word

The submission of transcripts should be unnecessary for certified out-of-state teachers, unless the state has some reason to suspect that the certifying state routinely certifies teachers who do not have a degree.

How we graded

Research rationale

Using transcripts to judge teacher competency provides little value.

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 experience or success level. The application of these often complex state rules results in unnecessary obstacles to hiring talented and experienced teachers. Little evidence indicates that reviewing a person's undergraduate coursework improves the quality of the teaching force or ensures that teachers have adequate knowledge.

New evaluation systems coming on line across the country which prioritize effectiveness and evidence of student learning (see Goal 3-B) 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 many states impose burdensome coursework requirements, they often fail to impose minimum standards on licensure tests. Instead, they offer 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. Too many states have 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 wide variety in quality can be found in traditional programs. If a teacher comes from another state with a standard license and can pass the state's licensure tests, whether the preparation was traditional or alternative should be irrelevant.

Licensure Reciprocity: Supporting Research

Many professions have gone further than teaching in encouraging interstate mobility. The requirements for attorneys, for example, are complicated, but often offer certain kinds of flexibility, such as allowing them to answer a small set of additional questions. See the Comprehensive Guide to Bar Admissions Requirements 2014, published by the National Conference of Bar Examiners and the American Bar Association, available at https://www.ncbex.org/assets/media_files/Comp-Guide/CompGuide.pdf.

On the similarity in effectiveness between graduates of traditional and alternative programs, see J. Constantine, D. Player, T. Silva, K. Hallgren, M. Grider, J. Deke, and E. Warner, An Evaluation of Teachers Trained Through Different Routes to Certification, Final Report. February 2009, U.S. Department of Education, NCEE 2009-4043. D. Boyd, P. Grossman, H. Lankford, S. Loeb, and J. Wyckoff, "How Changes in Entry Requirements Alter the Teacher Workforce and Affect Student Achievement." NBER Working Paper No. 11844, December 2005. T. Kane, J. Rockoff, and D. Staiger. "What Does Certification Tell Us About Teacher Effectiveness? Evidence from New York City." NBER Working Paper No.12155, April 2006. G. Henry, C. Thompson, K. Bastian, C. Fortner, D. Kershaw, K. Purtell, R. Zulli, A. Mabe, and A. Chapman, "Impacts of Teacher Preparation on Student Test Scores in North Carolina: Teacher Portals". The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Carolina Institute for Public Policy, 2010, 34p. Z. Xu, J. Hannaway, and C. Taylor, "Making a Difference?  The Effects of Teach for America in High School." The Urban Institute/Calder, Working Paper 17, April 2007. D. Boyd, P. Grossman, K. Hammerness. H. Lankford, S. Loeb, M. Ronfeldt, and J. Wyckoff, "Recruiting Effective Math Teachers: How Do Math Immersion Teachers Compare?: Evidence from New York City." NBER Working Paper No.16017, May 2010; as well as "How Changes in Entry Requirements Alter the Teacher Workforce and Affect Student Achievement," by D. Boyd, P. Grossman, H. Lankford, S. Loeb, and J. Wyckoff, NBER Working Paper No.11844, December 2005; and "The Effects of Teach For America on Students: Findings from a National Evaluation," by P. Decker, D. Mayer, and S. Glazerman, Mathematica Policy Research Inc., 2004.