Provisional and Emergency Licensure:
Tennessee

2017 General Teacher Prep Programs Policy

Goal

The state should close loopholes that allow teachers who have not met licensure requirements to continue teaching. This goal was consistent between 2015 and 2017.

Nearly meets

Analysis of Tennessee's policies

Emergency License(s) Availability: Tennessee does not offer emergency licenses. Tennessee's initial license (the Practitioner License) requires admission to or completion of a preparation program, a bachelor's degree and passage of all required content and pedagogy tests. Candidates with a bachelor's degree in a core content area can delay passage of licensure tests for up to three years.

Citation

Recommendations for Tennessee

Ensure that all teachers pass required subject-matter licensing tests before they enter the classroom.
While Tennessee is commended for not allowing teachers in the classroom on an emergency license, the state's new provisional license is problematic in that teachers may potentially teach for up to three years without having passed a content test. The state should require all teachers to meet subject-matter licensure requirements prior to entering the classroom regardless of whether or not they possess a content area major.

State response to our analysis

Tennessee recognized the factual accuracy of this analysis. The state also indicated that it offers permits for nonlicensed educators, but they are not issued an emergency license.

How we graded

6B: Provisional and Emergency Licensure 

  • Content knowledge: The state:
    • Should not, under any circumstance, award a standard license to a teacher who has not passed all required content licensing tests.
    • If it finds it necessary to confer conditional or provisional licenses to teachers who have not passed the required licensing tests, should do so only under limited and exceptional circumstances and ensure that all requirements are met within one year.
Content Knowledge
The total goal score is earned based on the following:

  • Full credit: The state will earn full credit if all new teachers are required to pass each required content test as a condition of receiving initial licensure.
  • Three-quarters credit: The state will earn three-quarters of a point if it grants emergency or provisional licenses to teachers who have not passed the required content tests, but such licenses are granted for no more than one year and are not renewable.
  • One-half credit: The state will earn up to one-half of a point if it allows for emergency or provisional licenses to be granted for longer than one year, but the state has strong requirements for applicants (e.g., content area major or preparation program completion without requiring a content test). The state may also be eligible for one-half of a point if it offers emergency or provisional licenses to teachers under "extenuating circumstances." 
  • One-quarter credit: The state will earn one-quarter of a point if it maintains minimum requirements that fall short of the requirements listed above.

Research rationale

Teachers who have not passed content licensing tests 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.[1] 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 minimum state standards.[2]

While some flexibility may be necessary because licensing tests are not always administered with the needed frequency, making provisional certificates and waivers available year after year could signal that 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.


[1] Research often finds a correlation between teachers' content knowledge and their effectiveness. For how this effect can play out in elementary ELA, see: Carlisle, J. F., Correnti, R., Phelps, G., & Zeng, J. (2009). Exploration of the contribution of teachers' knowledge about reading to their students' improvement in reading. Reading and Writing, 22(4), 457-486.; For how this effect can occur in secondary STEM subjects, see: Monk, D. (1994). Subject-area preparation of secondary mathematics and science teachers and student achievement. Economics of Education Review, 13(2), 125-145; For broader information about teacher qualities and student achievement, see: Goldhaber, D. D., & Brewer, D. J. (1997). Why don't schools and teachers seem to matter? Assessing the impact of unobservables on educational productivity. Journal of Human Research, 32(3), 505-523.; National Council on Teacher Quality. (2010). The all-purpose science teacher: An analysis of loopholes in state requirements for high school science teachers. Retrieved from http://www.nctq.org/p/publications/docs/NCTQ_All_Purpose_Science_Teacher.pdf.
[2] 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: Hanushek, E. A. (1992). The trade-off between child quantity and quality. Journal of Political Economy, 100(1), 84-117.; Hanushek has also found that highly effective teachers can improve future student earnings by more than $400,000, assuming a class size of 20. Hanushek, E. A. (2011). The economic value of higher teacher quality. Economics of Education Review, 30(3), 466-479. Retrieved from http://www.nber.org/papers/w16606