The State of Teacher Licensure and MobilityOverviewTeaching is the most heavily regulated profession in America. While the requirements for teacherlicensure, as with most professions, vary from state to state, teachers consistently face the largestvolume of requirements to both earn and maintain credentials. Along with this heavy regulation,licenses for teachers are highly segmented and specialized. Each teacher license finds itself somewherein a matrix of “vertical” requirements (school age group) and “horizontal” requirements (content area),with a varying number of specializations available for licensing.Interstate mobility for licensed professionals can be difficult, largely due to this 50-state patchwork oflicensing requirements. For teachers, the complexity of both the licensing process and the licensesthemselves can make interstate mobility extremely difficult, time-consuming, and costly.To better capture the elements of the 51 separate sets of requirements for teacher licensure (50 statesand the District of Columbia), and to develop a clearer picture of the various elements relevant toteacher mobility, The Council of State Governments, in the fall and winter of 2020, developed adatabase identifying the requirements each state has for teacher certification. Gathering this scattereddata into a single database eliminates much of the confusion around differing state requirements andmakes direct licensure comparisons among states and the District of Columbia – the state a licensedteacher moves from and the state they will move to, for example – much easier. During this time, CSGalso conducted a national analysis of the processes involved in mobility and compiled data on how, if atall, each state recognizes certification through the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards.Commonalities in Licensing RequirementsBefore discussing the contents of the database, there are two components of teacher licensure that arenot included, but should be discussed. These are requirements toward becoming a licensed teacher thatare consistent across all states: applicants must have 1) earned a bachelor’s degree and 2) completed anapproved teacher preparation program (TPP) designed to adequately prepare candidates for a career asan educator. Often, these paths are combined in colleges of education. These two requirements are partof the National Association of State Directors of Teacher Education and Certification (NASDTEC)Interstate Agreement. The NASDTEC Interstate Agreement stipulates the types and levels of licensureand establishes an expectation that out-of-state licenses are recognized, complemented by whatevercaveats or additional requirements a particular state deems necessary. Forty-seven states have joinedthis interstate agreement; only New Mexico, New York, and South Dakota have not (New York has notformally joined, but has passed the language into state statute, effectively joining).
Differences Among StatesAs Executive Director Phillip Rogers describes it, the NASDTEC Interstate Agreement is, “a handshake,not a mandate.” There are no enforcement mechanisms in the Agreement, so states are not necessarilybeholden to its contents. Any state requirements toward teacher licensure beyond earning a bachelor’sdegree and graduating from a TPP are known as “Jurisdiction-Specific Requirements”(JSR). JSR can varygreatly from state to state; the database (Appendix A) captures that information.The most prevalent pathway for interstate teacher mobility currently is the process by which statesexamine the existing license (and its requisite requirements) of an out-of-state candidate, determinewhich, if any, receiving state JSRs they have not completed, and determining pathways for these out-ofstate teachers to fill these gaps under a provisionary license or before the issuance of a license at all.This process is conducted on a case-by-case basis; setting policies to expedite this process can bedifficult, since states must theoretically prepare to process out-of-state licenses from 49 other states, 5territories, the District of Columbia, and the Department of Defense Education Activity (DoDEA).
Competency AssessmentsEvery state except Wyoming requires licensed educators to pass a content knowledge exam, whichmeasure a candidate’s competency in a particular subject area. A less universal type of examination thatmany states also require is a pedagogy exam, which measures understanding of best practices inteaching and learning (i.e. the effective transmission of content to a student audience).In addition to not requiring a content knowledge assessment, Wyoming only requires a pedagogyassessment for individuals seeking a subject-area endorsement in middle grades and for ElementaryEducation and Social Studies credentials. North Carolina requires a pedagogy assessment, but onlyrequires a content knowledge assessment for secondary (high school-level) teachers. These two states’assessment requirements are examples of the complex matrix of teacher licensure and how it can behighly segmented by grade level and subject area.
For assessments, states often will use the Praxis exams, created by the Educational Testing Service (ETS).As indicated in the database, 14 states have developed their own full or partial testing systems for thepurpose of initial teacher licensure and renewal – Virginia, for example, has the Virginia Communicationand Literacy Assessment and New York requires applicants to pass the Educating All Students (EAS)examination.
In terms of performance assessment, the most common is the educative Teacher PerformanceAssessment (edTPA), offered by ETS. Currently, 19 states require a performance assessment forindividuals seeking licensure as an educator, but trends suggest that this type of assessment will expandto more states. Many states offer this assessment as part of a TPP.
State Specific CourseworkMany states require specific coursework for teachers to be licensed. Such courses often are available ata state’s various institutions of higher education, but in some cases might be available through onlinevendors. Like the degree and TPP requirements, the cost of this additional coursework is paid by thecandidate, such as Arizona’s required coursework on the Arizona and U.S. Constitutions. However, somecoursework is available for free online, such as Montana’s “An Introduction to Indian Education for All inMontana.”Measures of ProtectionStates are typically mandated by their state constitutions to establish and maintain state systems ofeducation. Part of this responsibility is the protection of the health and safety of students under the careof these systems. States have developed various mechanisms designed to do this. First, all states requirebackground checks for teachers. While almost all states require a background check as part of thelicensure application process, seven states – Illinois, Michigan, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Dakota,Tennessee and Virginia – do not require a background check until application for employment. In theseseven states, the responsibility for background checks falls on the hiring district rather than the state.Many states have taken additional steps toward protecting the health and safety of students. All but 15states have a “good moral character” clause as part of their licensing statute. Such a clause allowslicensing boards to deny or revoke licensure to a candidate who does not demonstrate good moral
character as determined by the licensing board. Often, this quality is determined based on criminalhistory, including convictions for minor offenses and sometimes arrests that never led to a conviction.Even states that do not have these explicit “good character” provisions in their licensing laws maynonetheless have restrictions on the ability of licensing boards to reject a license application basedlargely on the criminal history of an applicant. Many states are moving to bring better definition to“good moral character,” linking the type of criminal history to the occupation to establish reasonablegrounds for exclusion of candidates; other states are choosing to eliminate “good moral character”clauses altogether.Additionally, 18 states have “blanket bans,” an automatic disqualification which prohibits a person witha felony conviction from obtaining a teaching certification. Some states narrow this to only feloniesdirectly related to the safety of children.
National CertificationsIn addition to this case-by-case pathway to licensure, another approach is through national certification,the most prevalent form of which is the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards (NBPTS). Forty-nine states recognize NBPTS certification in some way (Rhode Island does not, nor does theDistrict of Columbia).Thirty-two states recognize NBPTS certification as a pathway for licensed out-of-state teachers tomeet qualifications for one or more levels of licensure.Four states (Georgia, Idaho, Louisiana and Nebraska), while not recognizing NBTPS certificationalone as sufficient to merit mobility, waive various requirements for licensure in their state thatwere not mandated by the previous state. For example, NBPTS certified teachers moving to Idahoqualify to have the pedagogy assessment requirement waived if their previous state did not requirethis assessment.The remaining states recognize NBPTS certification for other purposes: teacher license renewaland/or advancement and monetary recognition.NBPTS certification has broad, national appeal, making it a useful tool for states seeking greater mobilityfor teachers. However, the process to earn NBPTS certification can be costly, with teachers facing a 1,975 price tag. The process also can also be time-consuming – while it is possible to complete the fullprogram in one year, competing demands on time often cause the process to be spread across multiple
years. States should consider both the confidence in abilities that NBPTS provides as well as the timeand financial costs to individual teachers.Initial Certification for Out-of-State ApplicantsAn additional area of concern is out-of-state applicants who have not yet obtained a teachingcertification. In line with the NASDTEC Interstate Agreement, 35 states allow graduates from out-ofstate teacher preparation programs at accredited institutions of higher education to apply for initiallicensure in their jurisdiction; the remaining 15 states and the District of Columbia require theseindividuals to obtain an initial license in their home state and then complete the process of transferringthat license to the new state.
Recognition of Out-of-State Education and ExperienceTeachers with substantial classroom experience might be concerned that their license status and theirplacement on a new salary schedule might not be comparable to what they earned in their previousstate. States have an interest in balancing their need to attract experienced talent to their classroomswhile maintaining a sense of fairness to current teachers in their state.Thirty-three states offer licensure incentives for out-of-state teachers who have various levels ofsuccessful teaching experience. However, the intricacies of each state’s statutes and policies require indepth discussion. Alabama recognizes the same years of experience for out-of-state teachers as for in-state teachers.The state increases salary based on the level of degree the teacher holds and the years ofexperience, but the advanced degree must be earned from a regionally accredited institution. Alaska offers in-state and out-of-state teachers with two years of experience with a public schooldistrict the opportunity to apply for a Professional Teacher certificate. Alaska is a “local control”state with salaries and benefits determined by district. Alaska does not recognize more than sixyears of out-of-state experience to establish a teacher’s position on a salary schedule. For teachersholding a master’s degree, Alaska will recognize up to eight years of out-of-state experience.
Arizona does not have a tiered licensure system and out-of-state teachers who meet therequirements are granted standard certification. Teacher salary schedules are determined bydistrict. However, Arizona statute prohibits advancement in these salary schedules based onteacher experience. Arkansas’ minimum salary schedule for classroom teachers is determined by the board of directorsin each school district. The state allows teacher placement on the salary schedule to be determinedby years of experience. In order to consider out-of-state teacher experience for placement on asalary schedule, the teacher must present a valid teaching license from the state where experiencewas obtained. California’s salary schedules are determined by district. Generally, teachers are placed in highersalary lanes by gaining more education and years of experience. In many districts, teachers stopgetting raises after a certain number of years (which varies from about 9-11 years) in the classroombut can still increase their salaries by obtaining more degrees. California has a two-tiered credentialstructure and will issue experienced out-of-state teachers with two or more years of teachingexperience a clear credential. If the out-of-state teacher has less than two years of experience,they must meet additional requirements in order to receive a standard teacher certificate. Colorado grants a professional-level (five year) license to out-of-state teachers with three years ofexperience obtained within the previous seven years. If a candidate has less than three years ofexperience, they will be issued an initial-level (three year) license. Teacher salary schedules aredetermined by district. For example, teachers new to the Mesa County Valley District are initiallyplaced based on their experience - up to 15 years of experience (within the last 20 years) isrecognized, while in Denver only 10 years in the last 15 years is recognized. Connecticut salary schedules are determined by district, but in almost all districts earning advanceddegrees will increase teacher salaries. Out-of-state teachers seeking certification in Connecticut willbe eligible for a Provisional License if they have 30 months of teaching experience. Delaware has three main licensure levels: Initial, Continuing and Advanced. Educators with over fouryears of experience, among other requirements, are eligible for a Continuing License. Teacher salaryschedules are determined by the state with a cutoff of 15 years of experience. The state encouragesdistricts to recognize related professional experience for teacher salary schedules. The state has aminimum teacher salary schedule based on years of teaching experience and degree level/creditaccumulation.
District of Columbia grants license eligibility to out-of-state teachers with at least two years ofexperience within five years of application. The law makes no mention of salary requirements. Florida does not recognize years of experience as it pertains to licensure. Out-of-state applicants forlicensure who can provide a valid teacher’s license from another state are eligible for a ProfessionalLicense. Teacher salary schedules are determined by district boards under a performance-basedassessment. Georgia provides higher level licenses depending on years of teaching experience. Teachers withless than three years of experience are eligible for an Induction certificate. Teachers with five yearsof experience may be exempt from some content testing requirements. Teacher salary schedulesare determined by the state and based on years of teaching experience and degree level. Hawaii provides a Standard License to out-of-state teachers with verified three years of experienceearned in the last five years. If the candidate cannot verify the necessary experience, they are givena Provisional License. Teacher salary schedules are determined by the state. Out-of-state teachersare initially placed on the first step of the salary schedule and only six years of teaching experiencecan be counted. The Hawaii Department of Education can provide a one-time award of 2,000 forrecruited out-of-state teachers. Additionally, Hawaii with recognize military experience with up tofour years of salary credit. Idaho teacher salary schedules are determined by district, but the state determines a minimumsalary of 38,500 or 42,500 with professional endorsement. Out-of-state teachers are issued anInterim Certificate and can only apply for a professional certificate after having taught in Idaho for atleast one year. Illinois teacher salary schedules are determined by the state and based on years of experience anddegree level. The educative Teacher Performance Assessment “edTPA” is waived for out-of-statecandidates with at least one year of teaching experience in pursuit of a Professional EducatorLicense. Indiana teacher salary schedules are determined by district. However, the state requires thatschedules be based on experience, relevant degrees, leadership roles, evaluation marks and studentneeds in the district. Out-of-state teachers with less than three years of experience can apply foran Initial Practitioner license. Candidates with more than three years of experience can apply for aPractitioner license.
Iowa minimum teacher salary requirements are determined by the state. Out-of-state teachers withless than three years of experience can receive an Initial License while candidates with over threeyears of experience are eligible for a Standard License. Any teacher with five years of experience anda master’s degree or 10 years of experience does not have to complete additional coursework. Outof-state teachers with three or more years of experience are exempt from some testingrequirements. Kansas teacher salary schedules are determined by local school boards. Out-of-state teachers withat least one year of experience in the last six years can qualify for an Initial License and teachers withat least three years of experience in the last six years can qualify for a Professional License and canbe exempt from assessment requirements. For out-of-state teachers who have three years of recentexperience or five years of total experience, Kansas waives licensing tests. Kentucky teacher minimum salaries are determined by the state, but each district can determine itsfull salary schedule. Salary schedules are based on years of experience and the rank of licensure,recognizing up to 20 years of experience. Out-of-state candidates with at least two years ofexperience may be exempt from some PRAXIS testing requirements. Louisiana teacher salary schedules are determined by local school boards. However, the staterequires that boards consider school need, degree level, experience and effectiveness whendetermining pay. Teachers from other states with a valid license may be eligible for a ProfessionalLevel 1 license. In order to receive credit for having three or more years of experience, out-of-stateteachers are evaluated. The state will waive licensing tests for candidates with three or more yearsof experience who have taught in Louisiana for one year. Maine teacher minimum salaries are determined by the state. Out-of-state teachers (from a stateparticipating in NASDTEC) with three years of experience can receive a Professional TeacherCertificate. There still may be additional requirements regardless of experience, but candidates canteach under a Conditional License until the additional requirements are resolved. Maryland has a salary schedule determined by the local school system with maximums andminimums set at the state level. Maryland has four primary levels of teacher licensure in the form ofa Professional Eligibility Certificate, Standard Professional Certificate I and 2 and the AdvancedProfessional Certificate. Out-of-state applicants from states other than from Pennsylvania andOklahoma are ineligible for a reciprocal license. Sending proof of licensing in home states andmeeting other requirements (notably, exams and employment by a Maryland school) mayqualify applicants for higher levels of licensure.
Massachusetts allows teachers applying from out-of-state for licensing eligibility for three levels oflicensure. The primary route for out-of-state teachers is obtaining a Temporary License, which isvalid for one year and is targeted toward teachers licensed in another state but who have notpassed the required, Massachusetts specific examinations (Massachusetts Tests for EducatorLicensure and the Sheltered English Immersion (SEI) Endorsement. Out-of-state teachers also canbe eligible for a Provisional License (valid for five years) with the MTEL examinations but without theSEI Endorsement. The Provisional and Initial licenses are non-renewable. out-of-stateapplicants canbe eligible for a full Initial License with the passage of the MTEL examinations and an SEIEndorsement as long as the TPP was completed in a state that is party to the NASDTEC InterstateAgreement or a college or university program approved by the State Commissioner. Teachers withan equivalent license from a NASDTEC state may be eligible for initial licensure if other requirementsare met. Teachers applying from out-of-state cannot move to a Professional License immediately asthat requires at least three years teaching under a Massachusetts Initial License. Michigan allows out-of-state applicants for licensure to apply directly to the second level oflicensure (Professional) with three years of successful teaching with a standing certification in theirhome state. These applicants also are exempt from assessments if they have 18 hours toward aplanned program since they were issued a teaching license and meet the Michigan reading creditrequirement. Minnesota has four tiers of teacher licensure (with the first primarily targeted at probationaryteachers waiting to fulfill some requirements). Applicants from out-of-state can apply for a Tier 2License with either a master’s degree in a subject area or a completed TPP and two years of teachingexperience in a subject area. An OOS applicant also can apply for a Tier 3 License with a standing,professional level license in another state and two years of experience. It is not possible for ateacher to be eligible for a Tier 4 License until they have taught in Minnesota for at least threeyears. Minnesota grants teachers with National Board Certification a temporary license until theyhave completed any outstanding Minnesota examination requirements. Mississippi has a state-level salary schedule for each level of teaching license (Class A-AAAA). OOSapplicants can apply directly for an equivalent form of each license with the requireddegree (master’s degree for AA; specialist’s degree for AAA; doctoral for AAAA). Missouri statute dictates how OOS teachers are issued different levels of certification. Missouriallows teachers with experience moving into the state to gain a higher level of initiallicensing. Missouri has two levels of teacher licensure: Initial Career Education Certificate (ICEC) anda Continuous Career Education Certificate (CCEC). Moving from an ICEC to a CCEC requires fouryears of experience, 90 hours of professional development, a performance review and participation
in a mentoring program. Missouri will consider OOS applicants who have ‘commensurateexperience’ to be eligible directly for a CCEC, which is valid for 99 years. Montana salary schedules are determined at the district level. Montana has two primary levels ofteacher licensure. A Class 2 License is a standard teaching license generally for recent graduates ofteacher preparation programs gaining their first Montana teaching license. A Class 1 (Professional)License requires a master’s degree or NBPTS Certificate and three years of experience after atraditional TPP or five years of experience after a non-traditional TPP. An OOS applicant can applydirectly to a Class 1 License by meeting those requirements as well as the passage of Montana Praxisrequirements and completion of a free, online class (An Introduction to Indiana Education for All inMontana). Nebraska determines at the state level where OOS teachers are placed on the career ladder.Applicants with valid credentials and teaching experience out-of-state will be given a provisionallicense while working toward requirements for upper-level licenses. These extra requirementsinclude courses on Human Relations and Special Education, however those requirements can befulfilled through the submission of a narrative showing competency in those areas, earned throughwork experience. State statute dictates that OOS applicants may be eligible for upper-level licensesafter moving, but each applicant is handled individually by a Certification Analyst. Nevada placement of OOS teachers is dictated by Nevada statute. Salary schedules are made at thedistrict level. Applicants with a valid license in another state that is non-conditional and nonprovisional will go through an individual process. Submitting the license and a form showingteaching experience in the licensed state generally waives testing requirements for an initial licenseand instead the Nevada Department of Education staff will match the license and experience withthe closest licensing level in Nevada. New Hampshire gives local districts discretion to create salary schedules, but state lawmakers havea funding formula for budgetary purposes. New Hampshire has two levels of teacher licensure.Teacher applicants from out-of-state can potentially be eligible for an Experienced EducatorCertificate with a license in good standing from another state and three years of verified teachingexperience at the elementary or secondary level. New Jersey has a state-mandated placement system for OOS applicants applying to their first NewJersey license. With only two forms of licensing (provisional and standard), an OOS applicant canbe eligible for a standard license with a valid standard certificate issued by another state anddemonstration of at least two effective years of teaching within three consecutive years of the last
four calendar years. OOS applicants also can achieve a standard certification level with an NBPTSCertificate. New Mexico has a state-level salary schedule outlined in statute. This correlates with the threelevels of licensure in New Mexico for which OOS applicants may be eligible. An applicant with abachelor’s degree, an NBPTS Certificate and at least three years of teaching experience can applydirectly to a Level 2 License. An applicant with a master’s degree, an NBPTS Certificate and at leastsix years of teaching experience can apply directly for a Level 3 License. New York has two levels of licensure (initial and professional). The New York State Department ofEducation has created a pathway for teachers from another state with a valid license and threeyears of teaching experience to gain an initial license without otherwise required exams. There is nopathway for an OOS applicant to immediately gain a professional license, regardless ofexperience. Salary schedules are determined at the district level. North Carolina utilizes a state-level salary schedule for teachers and other school staff. OOSapplicants can apply directly for the higher level of licensure (Continuing Practice License) in NorthCarolina with at least three years of experience. Out-of-state years of experience count towardsalary. OOS applicants with a National Board Certification also can apply directly for a ContinuingPractice License. North Dakota does not have a path to higher levels of licensure for OOS applicants. Ohio salary schedules are determined by the state. There are two pathways for incoming OOSapplicant teachers. If an applicant already is employed at an Ohio school and has not yet completedall licensure exams, they may apply for a one-year license. If an applicant has a valid standard orprofessional license from their home state and at least three years of teaching experience, they mayapply directly for the highest level of licensure in Ohio, a five-year professional license. Oklahoma has a state-level minimum salary schedule. Oklahoma has one level of teacher licensure,for which an OOS applicant can apply. Oregon salary schedules are set at the district level and the steps are generally between years ofexperience and level of education. Education and years of experience in other states can be countedas long as a school leader from the past experience submits a form. The only path for an OOSlicensed teacher to an Oregon license is by utilizing a one-year reciprocal license while workingtoward the requirements for either a Preliminary or Professional Teaching License.
Pennsylvania maintains two levels of teacher licensure. Out-of-state teachers are eligible forPennsylvania’s Level II License if the teacher holds the NBPTS Credential comparable to thePennsylvania certificate type for which they apply. Out-of-state teachers who do not hold the NBPTSCertificate, regardless of education or experience, are eligible for a Level I License only. Pennsylvaniahas a minimum salary schedule for teachers that applies only to service within an individual schooldistrict. Teachers who transfer between districts in-state and out-of-state negotiate the placementon the salary schedule with the employing district. Rhode Island grants educators with an out-of-state license full reciprocity if their credentials includefulfillment of Rhode Island’s educator testing requirements. Educators with an out-of-statelicense but whose credentials do not include fulfillment of Rhode Island’s educator testingrequirements can receive temporary certification. Rhode Island law requires school districts toestablish minimum salary schedules that recognize years of service, experience and training for allcertified personnel with no more than 12 annual steps. Out-of-state educators negotia
The state allows teacher placement on the salary schedule to be determined by years of experience. In order to consider out-of-state teacher experience for placement on a salary schedule, the teacher must present a valid teaching license from the state where experience was obtained. California’s