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One Small Step For Teachers, One Giant Leap For Bureaucrats

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As a teacher, you will find that crossing state lines is often as difficult as getting out of East Berlin used to be. But now, seven states in the Northeast are doing what everybody else is only talking about doing: making it easier for teachers to move.

Officials in Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Rhode Island, and Vermont have crated the Northeast Regional Credential, which will allow a teacher in any of these seven states to move to any one of the others without having to go through the hassle of applying for the new state's license. Starting April 1, 1990, qualified teachers can apply through a regional clearinghouse and be issued a regional credential in just three weeks.

Licensing officials across the country will be watching the Northeast experiment to see how it goes; if successful, it could become the model on which other regions establish contracts.

But the availability of this regional credential does not mean the seven states have agreed to the same requirements. That would be too much to hope for. Each state still decides whether applicants must pass competency tests and how much continuing education and teaching experience is required to keep up the license.

The states do agree, however, that a teacher will be able to fulfill those requirements while teaching with an NRC. The credential is valid for only one year in Maine and two years in Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Rhode Island, and Vermont.

And the license doesn't permit you to move from state to state to state, either. That means that if you teach in New York for two years with an NRC and then want to move to Rhode Island, you will have to apply there for a state license.

So why bother with an NRC license? Why not apply straight to the state to which you are moving?

  • To save time: Receiving an out-of-state license can take up to six months, according to Edward Dambruch, assistant commissioner of the Rhode Island Department of Education. But if you meet the NRC's requirements, your application will be processed within three weeks. And with an NRC, you can go directly to a local school district. The hiring official will know that you are legally employable for up to two years without having to wait for any paperwork.
  • No prerequisites: If you move with an NRC, you will not have to meet any of your new state's requirements before you get into the classroom. For instance, if you are moving to a state that requires passing a competency test, you will have two years to complete the test. Under the standard system of reciprocity, you would have to take the test before getting into the classroom.
  • A few warnings:

  • To get an NRC, you must already hold a state license in one of the seven states. (If you are a graduating senior, you must apply and receive a license from one of the seven states before you can apply for an NRC.)
  • Once an NRC is issued, the clock starts running, so don't get it until you are ready to move. It can be renewed once if you don't use it.

  • An NRC is issued for such subject areas as general elementary, art, biology, business, chemistry, early childhood, English, foreign languages, health, home economics, physical education, special education, guidance counseling, and library and media. One common subject area that is not included at this time is social studies.
  • Although Connecticut teachers are eligible for the NRC and can use it to teach elsewhere in the region, the state of Connecticut will accept NRC-licensed teachers from other states in only one subject area: occupational trades.
  • The NRC will not automatically convert to an ordinary state license. In other words, if you use an NRC to teach in a state for two years, and then decide to remain in the state, you'll need to apply for that state's initial license.
  • For the qualified, eager professional who just wants to get busy teaching in the classroom, it may sound like the hassles still loom. Dambruch says that the ultimate goal is to develop a credential that is not "piggybacked" on any other state license. To do that, the region would need to establish common requirements. "We are going in that direction, but it will take some time," he says.

    To receive an NRC application, call any of the participating states' licensing agencies or write to: Gail Thomas, Regional Laboratory for Educational Improvement of the Northeast and Islands, 300 Brickstone Square, Suite 900, Andover, MA 01810.

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