Teacher Preparation

Amid Shortage Fears, States Ease Teacher-Licensing Rules

By Emmanuel Felton — September 06, 2016 2 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

With policymakers across the country increasingly worried about teacher shortages, one after another, state licensing authorities have been loosening certification rules.

In Utah, prospective teachers now only need a bachelor’s degree in any subject and a passing score on a content-area test to attain a license. Previously, those candidates were required to have years of practice teaching and some college-level education classes under their belts before being granted a license.

Wisconsin’s schools chief, Tony Evers, recently announced a slew of changes to his state’s teacher-licensing procedures to make it easier for retired and prospective teachers to get certified. Teachers with emergency one-year licenses will be allowed to renew their credentials even if they haven’t yet passed required tests. Retired teachers or those planning to retire will be given five-year licensure extensions without having to go through the additional training typically required.

New York cleared the path in July for more out-of-state educators to get licensed to teach in the Empire State, dropping its requirement that teachers who are certified in other states take New York’s own certification exams.

And back in May, Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin signed a bill that creates a new pathway for teacher-candidates who have a bachelor’s degree in and work experience related to a subject area. The new law leaves the details of how much and what type of work experience will be required to the state’s licensing board.

In all four cases, lawmakers cited concerns about teacher shortages.

“The educator-workforce shortage is one of the most critical public-policy issues facing our state,” Evers said in a statement. “We must look for long- and short-term solutions, identify what is driving shortages in Wisconsin and nationally, and search for actionable steps that can bring our schools and educators relief. Well-trained educational staff are critical partners in our work to prepare our kids for college and career.”

‘Human Rights Issue’

While there’s scarce evidence of a teacher-shortage crisis on the national level, research does support the idea that some states are experiencing serious shortages because of high turnover rates and fewer entering teachers. State teacher-licensure procedures, meanwhile, often make it cumbersome for out-of-state teachers to transfer their credentials.

According to federal data, Wisconsin and Oklahoma are experiencing widespread shortages across several content areas, while Utah’s shortages are largely confined to science, technology, engineering, mathematics, and special education—specializations for which most states struggle to find enough teachers to meet demand.

Even so, critics have questioned the impulse to loosen certification requirements, saying it could reduce teacher quality and diminish teachers’ professional status even further.

Utah’s new rules have received the most criticism. Utah Education Association President Heidi Matthews has urged the board to rehash the new rules, saying they will only exacerbate inequalities, as rich districts will be able to hire more mentor teachers to get all the new inexperienced teachers up to speed.

“It’s a human rights issue,” she argued.

A version of this article appeared in the September 07, 2016 edition of Education Week as Amid Shortage Fears, States Ease Teacher-Licensing Rules


Commenting has been disabled on edweek.org effective Sept. 8. Please visit our FAQ section for more details. To get in touch with us visit our contact page, follow us on social media, or submit a Letter to the Editor.


Events

This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Teaching Webinar
6 Key Trends in Teaching and Learning
As we enter the third school year affected by the pandemic—and a return to the classroom for many—we come better prepared, but questions remain. How will the last year impact teaching and learning this school
Content provided by Instructure
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
School & District Management Webinar
Ensuring Continuity of Learning: How to Prepare for the Next Disruption
Across the country, K-12 schools and districts are, again, considering how to ensure effective continuity of learning in the face of emerging COVID variants, politicized debates, and more. Learn from Alexandria City Public Schools superintendent
Content provided by Class
Teaching Profession Live Online Discussion What Have We Learned From Teachers During the Pandemic?
University of California, Santa Cruz, researcher Lora Bartlett and her colleagues spent months studying how the pandemic affected classroom teachers. We will discuss the takeaways from her research not only for teachers, but also for

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Teacher Preparation Opinion First-Year Teachers Need Support This Year. Here Are 5 Ways Prep Programs Can Help
Do the teachers and administrators stepping into the classroom or school office for the first time during the pandemic have what they need?
Linda S. McKee
3 min read
A group of people help each other out.
iStock
Teacher Preparation First-Time Pass Rates on Teacher Licensure Exams Were Secret Until Now. See the Data
The National Council on Teacher Quality published first-time pass rate data on teacher licensing tests, which had been hidden for years.
8 min read
teacher 1276371740 stylized
Drazen Zigic/iStock/Getty
Teacher Preparation The Complicated, Divisive Work of Grading Teacher-Preparation Programs
As the two national accreditors for teacher-preparation programs evolve, the battle over market share heats up.
9 min read
Illustration of checkmark
Getty
Teacher Preparation Remote Learning Is Changing Schools. Teacher-Preparation Programs Have to Adjust
For schools to leverage lessons learned during the pandemic, new teachers need better training on how to work in online environments.
8 min read
A teacher tries to keep up with her technology training
Vanessa Solis/Education Week and iStock/Getty Images Plus