Licensure Reciprocity: South Dakota

2015 Expanding the Pool of Teachers Policy


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

Meets in part

Analysis of South Dakota's policies

Teachers with valid out-of-state certificates are eligible for comparable licensure in South Dakota. However, the state does not require evidence of effective teaching during previous employment in its reciprocity policy.

South Dakota does not provide any waivers on its testing requirements. All out-of-state teachers, no matter how many years of experience they have, must meet South Dakota's passing scores on licensing tests.

Applicants must meet the state's coursework recency requirement, meaning that if the out-of-state teacher's degree is more than five years old, he or she must show proof of six semester credit hours within the five-year period preceding application. 

South Dakota also requires all incoming teachers to complete two courses in human relations and South Dakota Indian Studies. The state does not appear to offer a test-out option for this coursework.


Recommendations for South Dakota

Require evidence of effective teaching when determining eligibility for full certification.
To facilitate the movement of effective teachers between states, South Dakota 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 an important factor of a teacher evaluation, especially in a state such as South Dakota, which requires evidence of student growth to be a significant criterion of its teacher evaluations (see "Evaluation of Effectiveness" analysis and recommendations).

Offer a standard license to certified out-of-state teachers, absent unnecessary requirements. 
South Dakota should reconsider its recency requirement regarding coursework, as it may deter talented teachers from applying for certification. 

Further, the state's human relations and South Dakota Indian Studies coursework requirements are reasonable, but South Dakota should offer out-of-state teachers a test-out option.

State response to our analysis

South Dakota recognized the factual accuracy of this analysis. The state added that it is undergoing a comprehensive review and revision of its certification requirements, which it anticipates will be completed by Spring 2016. South Dakota further noted that it does not necessarily agree that NCTQ’s recommendations in this area best meet the needs of the state.

How we graded

Research rationale

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 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 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

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.