Part-Time Teaching Licenses: Rhode Island

2015 General Teacher Prep Programs Policy

Goal

The state should offer a license with minimal requirements that allows content experts to teach part time.

Meets a small part

Analysis of Rhode Island's policies

Rhode Island offers two certificates that allow content-experts to teach; the Visiting Lecturer Preliminary Certificate and Expert Residency.

The Visiting Lecturer Preliminary Certificate has minimal requirements for issuance. At the request of the district, the certificate allows content experts to assist teachers of record in the classroom. The certificate is only available for secondary grades and all grade certificate areas (i.e., dance, theater, physical education and music). Those certified under this license cannot teach a classroom on their own. The state requires individuals with this certificate to exhibit distinct qualifications, which "may include demonstrated expertise in a professional field, significant recognitions and awards in a professional field, or exceptional contributions to a professional field."

The Expert Residency certificate is awarded to candidates who are pursuing a path to full certification and who demonstrate sufficient preparation in subject matter, administrative expertise, or other certificate area-specific requirements. Candidates must have a bachelor's degree, and an advanced degree is required for some certification areas. The certificate is valid for one year and may be renewed up to three times. Expert Residency candidates must meet differing requirements depending on the specific certification area sought, but this generally consists of a subject-matter test and a related major or equivalent coursework.

Citation

Recommendations for Rhode Island

Offer a license that allows content experts to serve as part-time instructors who are responsible for their own classes.
Although Rhode Island allows Visiting Lecturers to assist in the classroom, these content experts should be able to teach in a classroom on their own rather than solely assisting classroom teachers. In addition, it is unclear whether the Expert Residency certificate serves as a vehicle for individuals with deep subject-area knowledge to teach a limited number of courses. It appears that this may be the intent of the license; however, state policy does not describe the conditions of employment, whether it is for part-time or full-time teaching.

Require applicants to pass a subject-matter test.
While it is commendable that Expert Residency candidates must pass subject-matter tests, Rhode Island should require the same of Visiting Lecturer candidates. While documentation of "distinct qualifications" provided by Visiting Lecturer applicants may show evidence of expertise in a particular field, only a subject-matter test ensures that Visiting Lecturers know the specific content they will need to teach.

State response to our analysis

Rhode Island was helpful in providing NCTQ with facts that enhanced this analysis.

The state also indicated that the Expert Residency and Visiting Lecturer Preliminary Certificates were created with varying intentions. The Expert Residency certificate may serve as an entry point into the workforce for nontraditional individuals. This certificate would allow an individual to attain a position as a teacher of record within a specific certificate area in Rhode Island. The Visiting Lecturer is intended for individuals who do not plan to become fully certified. The Visiting Lecturer Preliminary Certificate is intended to allow for individuals with distinct qualifications to enhance or supplement the educational programming. A Visiting Lecturer will never serve as an educator of record and has not demonstrated content competency by meeting the certification-testing requirements.

How we graded

Research rationale

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 requirements for part-time licenses 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.