Teaching Profession

The Interstate Teacher Mobility Compact Is Now in Effect. Here’s What That Means

By Madeline Will — July 10, 2023 3 min read
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It’s about to get much easier for some teachers to keep teaching after moving across state lines.

Ten states have signed on to the Interstate Teacher Mobility Compact this spring—the benchmark needed for the agreement to become active. Now, a teacher who has a bachelor’s degree, completed a state-approved program for teacher licensure, and has a full teaching license can receive an equivalent license from participating states.

That means they can teach in another state without having to submit additional materials, take state-specific exams, or complete additional coursework.

The initial 10 participating states are: Alabama, Colorado, Florida, Kansas, Kentucky, Nevada, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Oregon, and Utah.

Interstate licensure compacts are common in health-related fields, such as nursing, but the teacher compact was the fastest to become active. And more states could sign on soon: Six additional states have legislation pending, and other states are likely to join in the years to come.

Policymakers hope the compact will increase the supply of teachers in their states and help with filling classroom vacancies. It won’t be a silver bullet, but the model can reduce the red tape that may deter prospective teachers.

“It’s going to make the recruitment of teachers easier,” said David Griffith, the associate executive director of policy and advocacy for the National Association of Elementary School Principals. “Anything to facilitate their mobility across state lines is going to be helpful to address teacher shortages.”

Right now, he said, getting a teaching license in a new state after a move can be confusing, complicated, and even expensive, as some states require teachers to pay for additional courses or tests. Some teachers have even sued to get their past licenses recognized in new states.

The compact will make it “clearer, simpler, and easier,” Griffith said.

An initiative to help military families

The effort for reciprocity is funded by the U.S. Department of Defense, which developed the compact along with the Council of State Governments and the National Association of State Directors of Teacher Education and Certification (NASDTEC). A dozen education and state legislative groups, including the NAESP and the National Education Association, also contributed.

The impetus behind the compact was to help military families, who move every two to three years. It’s common for military spouses to teach, and maintaining their licenses from state to state can present significant cost and time barriers.

For military spouses, the compact agreement will waive the requirement that participating teachers must have a full, unencumbered license. Since they move so often, they can use a temporary or provisional license and still be eligible for reciprocity.

There are some other exceptions, too: The bachelor’s degree requirement will be waived for career and technical education teachers, who are often able to be licensed without such a degree.

States that join the compact can choose which teaching licenses are part of the agreement. For example, one state might decide that it will have full reciprocity for incoming world-language teachers but not elementary teachers. Another state might have full reciprocity for all teachers.

A handful of states already offer full teacher-license reciprocity, but because those states crafted their policies independently, there are some variations in their rules.

The compact, meanwhile, offers a uniform set of rules and expectations for participating states. It will be governed by a commission made up of one education official from each member state.

Member states will now nominate their commissioners, and the first meeting of the commission will be held later this year to draft the bylaws and rules of the compact.

“This compact maintains each member state’s standards while recognizing the professional who holds this high-level license,” said Jimmy Adams, the executive director of the National Association of State Directors of Teacher Education and Certification, in a statement. “This compact will keep many teachers in the profession who may otherwise leave.”

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