Certification Through Reciprocity

In today’s highly mobile society, many individuals will either move or plan to move from one U.S. state to another at some point in their lives.

For teachers, the issue of whether or not certification credentials earned in one state transfer to another remains a major concern when deciding to move.

Transferring teaching certification from one state to another is called certification reciprocity. Explore certification requirements in the state where you wish to teach.

According to a report compiled by the National Association of State Directors of Teacher Education and Certification (NASDTEC), teachers move for a variety of reasons. One survey of 1000 teachers reported that 50% moved to follow a spouse or partner to another state.

Another 21% reported moving because that they wanted to be closer to family. Others said that a state’s climate created an interest in moving.

Regardless of the reasons, all teachers polled by NASDTEC for the report “Teachers on the Move: A Look at Teacher Interstate Mobility Policy and Practice” stated that their number one concern was certification reciprocity.

And while this was only a small sample of mobile teachers, the report also stated that according to figures from 2007, of 30 states sampled, more than one in five teachers to whom the states granted initial certification in the 2005-06 school year had prepared for certification in another state.

That data along with a number of other studies points to a considerable number of professional teachers needing important information on certification reciprocity.

An interstate agreement

State certifying boards are aware of the substantial amount of teachers moving between states, and the problem of matching one state’s certification requirements with another’s.

Certification requirements between states vary widely; however most states, the District of Columbia, Guam, and Puerto Rico have signed an agreement called the Interstate Contract for teacher certification.

This agreement, maintained by NASDTEC, provides a general framework for reciprocity, stating that comparable certification requirements, such as the passing of one or more state certification tests, qualifies a teacher for reciprocity.

For example, nearly every state mandates that teachers hold a bachelor’s degree and a passing score on one or more certification exams, so states agree that these are verifiable credentials for transfer.

The agreement outlines which particular types of educator certificates (teachers, administrators, service personnel, or career/technical), and which particular styles of certifications (titles, fields, subjects) will be accepted.

This agreement specifies that the "receiving" state will authorize the inbound certificate holder to legally teach in the receiving state, provided the license issued by the "sending" state is valid. However, states might ask for additional certification requirements.

What certification reciprocity is not

While reciprocity usually means an even exchange, in teaching, reciprocity is not that narrowly defined.

The term teaching certification reciprocity does not mean an unconditional two-way agreement. One state might only require that an applicant send his or her transcripts and pertinent certification credentials to the state’s board of education for evaluation.

For example, if Georgia agrees that it will accept teaching certificates from Connecticut, this acceptance in no way implies that Connecticut will accept teaching certificates from Georgia without imposing additional requirements.

Educators might have to complete additional requirements, such as coursework, assessments, or classroom experience, before receiving a professional certificate in their new state.

Additional certification requirements

To further complicate the reciprocity rules, additional certification requirements vary by state. Some states might require teachers to take additional tests, such as a competency exam. Other states might also require letters from previous employers noting specific teaching experience by grade level and/or subject.

Some states require that those who received their initial certification in another state complete additional coursework. This might involve a state history class, for instance.

The teachers usually needing to fulfill the largest amount of additional requirements are special education and middle school teachers.

Special Education. Some states certifying teachers in special education license individuals to teach children in grades K-12 with a specific disability. Other states, however, might certify teachers to teach children of specified age ranges with any type of disability. And in still other states, individuals are certified to teach a specific age range with specific disabilities.

These differences in state-defined licensure categories for special education teachers mean that those wanting to move states might have to take a number of different classes to meet the incoming state’s requirements.

However because of a shortage in special education teachers, many states are willing to give special education teachers an appropriate time period to finish additional certification requirements, or to even waive certain requirements.

Middle School. As for middle school certification, some states certify teachers for grades 5–9. Other states don’t call it middle school certification, but secondary teaching certification, licensing teachers for grades 6–12.

These differences in grade spans might cause teachers certified in grades 5-9 to take extra classes if they move to a state that requires secondary certification for grades 6-12. For example, the content preparation of teachers with dedicated middle school licenses might not be effective for teaching college preparatory classes such as algebra or geometry or physics in the higher grades.

Transportable teaching certificates

Education officials in all states want to ensure that high-quality teachers are given the opportunity to teach regardless of where they prepare for certification. With that in mind, states are working to develop certification policies that complement each other.

If you are interested in the teaching reciprocity rules for your state, or you are exploring teaching certification requirements, check the certification information of the state in which you wish to teach.

Florida’s Educational Reform Removes Gap

The academic “achievement gap” talked about in the media and debated in state legislatures and the U.S. Congress refers to the disparity in performance between groups of students.

It generally refers to the educational gaps between African-American and Hispanic students, and their non-Hispanic peers – white, middle class, more affluent students. The “gap” is reflected in grades, standardized-test scores, dropout rates, and college-completion rates.

But according to a paper published by The Heritage Foundation, educators in one state know how to close this gap.

“One state, Florida, has demonstrated that meaningful academic improvement—for students of all races and economic backgrounds—is possible,” wrote Mathew Ladner, PhD, and Lindsey M. Burke.

These authors wrote in “Closing the Racial Achievement Gap: Learning from Florida’s Reforms,” that Florida’s innovative and commonsense approach has proven successful.

In 1999, Florida enacted reform for grades K-12 that included both public and private school choice, charter schools, and virtual education. As for teachers, it instituted performance-based pay, grading of schools and districts, annual tests, and alternative teacher certification.

“As a result of parental choice, higher standards, accountability, and flexibility, Florida’s Hispanic students are now out performing or tied with the overall average for all students in 31 states,” the article stated.

In terms of alternative teacher certification, the authors of the article also stated that reciprocity with other state teaching certificates, and honoring certification through alternative teacher certification programs played a major role in placing highly qualified teachers in classrooms.

The article places the efforts of Florida’s educational reformers well ahead of other efforts undertaken on the national level, such as the War on Poverty of the mid-1960s, to the No Child Left Behind Act of 2002.

It recommends that state educators look closely at the Florida plan to implement similar programs in their states.