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Education Opinion

Let’s Establish a Compelling Vision for Relicensure

By Learning Forward & Stephanie Hirsh — December 19, 2017 3 min read
Stephanie Hirsh

Last week, EdWeek released a report on the state of teacher relicensure/recertification. I admit I used the word “whine” when describing my 20-year effort to bring attention to this issue and its potential as a policy play in states (see related article ). I hope the recent coverage will lead states, think tanks, professional organizations, and philanthropists to consider much-needed changes and transformational efforts.

As I stated in this post in 2015, educator relicensure and recertification processes are missed opportunities when it comes to ensuring that educators have access to the professional learning they want and need to help students succeed. Here are several reasons.


  • Educators see little connection between relicensure requirements and the challenges they face on a daily basis.
  • Educators receive little guidance about the choices or resources to support them in meeting relicensure or recertification requirements. As a result, convenience and price heavily influence the decisions educators make.
  • Attendance is often the only criteria for educators to earn credits.

Too few states and districts have systems in place for awarding credit for the professional development educators value most: job-embedded, team-based, collaborative learning.

This system needs to change. We know that educators want and deserve more and better professional learning to meet the challenges they face every day. We know educators value most the opportunity to learn and problem solve collaboratively. We know students achieve more when their teachers hold high expectations and apply the lessons offered from a rigorous aligned curriculum and instructional materials. We know everyone benefits most when they are part of learning communities that share collective responsibility and align their learning efforts with the standards students are expected to master.

So how might the conversation begin in states and or other groups interested in changing the current archaic model?

First, let’s establish a compelling vision for relicensure:

To provide support for all students and educators to continuously learn and perform at higher levels.

To ensure all educators have the knowledge, skills, and resources required to ensure students master and exceed college- and career-ready standards.

To recognize and reward educators for advancing their competence, acquiring new competencies, and assuming new leadership responsibilities.

Finally, to establish a system that instills society’s confidence that all students will experience great teaching every day.

Then we can consider possible strategies for moving toward this vision:


  • Establish a statewide task force for reinventing relicensure.
  • Create state- and district-level systems of peer review tied to relicensure where both renewing and contributing educators grow through giving and receiving feedback.
  • Shift the expectation from documenting hours of learning to demonstrating impact on educators’ practice and student learning. Consider application of microcredentials to this process.
  • Focus on having educators demonstrate, perhaps through a portfolio, that they have the knowledge and skills aligned with performance as well as curriculum and instructional standards.
  • Tie salary advancements to demonstrations of knowledge, skills, and competencies and the assumption of leadership responsibilities rather than to records of attendance in courses.
  • Engage representatives of all educators in developing new systems for recognizing and rewarding educators who meet and/or exceed such standards.

We have leaders in this field who are already taking some of these steps. We have states that incentivize demonstrating impact, others that use portfolios, and some that are piloting the use of peer review. We need to dig deeper into these opportunities to support, attract, and retain the educators we need now and in the future.

At the same time, we recognize that this in itself isn’t enough to transform professional learning for all educators. This is just one part of a comprehensive professional learning system. However, we know that relicensure or recertification is often an educator’s entry point to professional learning and may make this a logical starting point for discussions about transformation. Please keep the conversation going and let us know about the next actions you will pursue.

Stephanie Hirsh
Executive Director, Learning Forward
@HirshLF

The opinions expressed in Learning Forward’s PD Watch are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.

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