Teacher Preparation

All Teachers Go Through Recertification. How Can We Make the Process Better?

By Madeline Will — December 07, 2017 2 min read
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For teachers, it’s a fact of life. Every five years, educators have to meet continuing education requirements to renew their licenses.

But when is the last time policymakers really looked at the process to make sure it’s actually meaningful and beneficial to educators? In the past 10 years, major education research journals only published one article about teacher-certification renewal, an Education Week review found. And Education Week itself last wrote about the issue in 2000.

Until now. Education Week Teacher just published a special report all about teacher recertification—how parts of the system are broken, the few bright spots of policy, and proposals and ideas to make it better.

Teachers have expressed frustration about the murky process. “My cynical side says it’s basically a way for the state to bring in money, and I think there’s a certain amount of truth to that,” teacher Patricia Marshall said. (Just check out the horror stories that teachers tweeted at us.)

Indeed, there are countless providers who offer education credits and PD. But who is in charge of ensuring quality? Reporter Stephen Sawchuk found that teachers are often paying out of pocket to complete their continuing education requirements, and there are few quality checks.

And what about National Board certification? In about half of states, teachers who have obtained the “gold standard” of teaching don’t receive any sort of perk or recognition when it comes to renewing their license.

That frustration caused Megan Allen, an award-winning, National Board-certified teacher, to leave the classroom. She moved to a different state, and despite all her accomplishments, she would have had to take two tests for educator licensure. “I didn’t feel like I was valued for any of the expertise that I had earned, worked hard for, and proved,” she writes.

Still, some states are shaking up their recertification systems in a way that has left educators optimistic. Georgia has gone from asking teachers how long they spent in PD to looking how much they grew. Teachers there have to participate in weekly problem-solving meetings so that their learning is happening on the job and continuously. And in Tennessee, teachers can complete microcredentials that will count toward their license renewal. The microcredentials are meant to be more specialized and flexible PD opportunities that meet teachers’ specific needs.

After all, PD should be “timely, purposeful, and progressive,” educator Brian Curtin writes. He shares his thoughts on what that should look like in practice.

Ultimately, educator and former policymaker Kim Walters-Parker writes, “I believe our profession is missing an opportunity to ensure that certificate renewal is more than just a hurdle, a checklist, or a nuisance with a price tag.”

How can we get there? Share your thoughts in the comment section below or on the individual stories. And make sure to check out the full report.

A version of this news article first appeared in the Teaching Now blog.