Other State Licensing Requirements

Additional state licensing requirements can include U.S. citizenship, minimum age, character recommendations, or oaths of allegiance (National Association of State Directors of Teacher Education and Certification, 2000b). A small number of states require criminal background checks. Each state has guidelines governing the types of prior offenses that would prohibit licensure. Generally, prospective teachers with misdemeanors can be licensed, while those with felony records cannot.

Types of State Teaching Licenses

The majority of states have a two- or three-tiered licensure process with additional requirements tied to obtaining each type of license (National Association of State Directors of Teacher Education and Certification, 2000b). Thirty-one states require an initial license (valid for two to five years) and the attainment of a standard professional license based on fulfillment of additional requirements. Another 13 states offer an optional advanced certificate. Only three states grant a lifetime license at the advanced level. Although most of the additional licensing requirements center around completing advanced degrees or continued professional development, some states (such as Ohio, North Carolina, and Connecticut) require demonstration of competent teaching practice to obtain the next level of license. Awarding licenses based on progressively increasing education, experience, and performance requirements is another way that states try to improve the quality of teaching.

By their nature, licensure requirements reduce the supply of credentialed teachers. In some subjects and jurisdictions, given current hiring practices and current levels of teacher compensation, the supply of credentialed teachers is below the numbers needed to staff existing classes (U.S. Department of Education, 2000b, 2001). This is particularly true in mathematics, science, bilingual education, and special education and in some urban and rural communities.

In responding to these conditions, almost all states issue various kinds of restricted licenses, allowing districts and schools to hire teachers on a temporary or emergency basis for a number of reasons. Some require a demonstration that the district cannot find credentialed teachers (National Association of State Directors of Teacher Education and Certification, 2000b; U.S. Department of Education, 2000a, 2001). Some states issue emergency or temporary licenses to individuals who have met some requirements, such as holding a bachelor’s degree, passing a basic skills test, or holding a license from another state, yet who have not fulfilled all of the licensure requirements for that state. State rules differ as to which licensure requirements may be waived for teachers using temporary or emergency credentials.

In all but three states requiring basic skills testing, basic skills test require-

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