Just the Facts: Teacher Certification

Published May 1, 2002

Although serious questions have been raised about the value of the current procedure for certifying elementary and secondary schoolteachers, sheer inertia and lack of comfort with alternatives mean it’s unlikely the procedure will be changed significantly in the near future … or at least until a more competitive market emerges in K-12 education.

In fact, since politicians will want to demonstrate they are actively “solving” the problem of teacher quality, they are much more likely to impose new regulations rather than lift existing ones.

During the next few years, increased attention will be focused on teacher qualifications and performance for another reason: President George W. Bush’s “No Child Left Behind” Act. The Act requires that, by 2006, every K-12 class have a “highly qualified teacher.” Next year, states must submit plans to show how they plan to achieve that goal.

According to the new law, a “highly qualified teacher” is a person who is:

  • fully certified or licensed under state law; and,
  • competent in the subjects he or she is teaching.

Teachers for whom the state has waived certification requirements are not considered under the law to be “highly qualified.” Proof of competence may require a bachelor’s degree in a content area, passing a state test, or National Board Certification.

How do current state certification requirements stack up against the requirements of the new Act? In a recent issue of Education Leadership, Christopher T. Cross and Diana Wyllie Rigden note the following differences in initial certification requirements for the 50 states and the District of Columbia:

  • Only 15 states require all teachers to earn a degree in a content area (36 do not).
  • 21 states requires a degree in a content area for future high school teachers (30 do not).
  • 12 states require a degree in education (39 do not).
  • 3 states require no teaching experience.
  • 37 states require candidates to pass a basic skills test (14 do not).
  • 14 states require tests to assess teaching performance (37 do not).
  • 33 states require a subject matter exam (18 do not).

Information on how to determine the precise certification requirements for each state is provided below.

Teacher Certification Requirements by State

School Reform News had planned to publish a Data Table summarizing State Requirements for Teacher Certification but quickly abandoned the idea after perusing the 51 pages of tables and footnotes in Part B alone—”Requirements for the Initial Teaching Certificate”—of the latest Teacher Certification Manual from the National Association of State Directors of Teacher Education and Certification (NASDTEC). Instead, we offer here information on two regularly updated publications that provide details of each state’s teacher certification requirements.

National Association of State Directors of Teacher Education and Certification (NASDTEC)

NASDTEC’s publication, The NASDTEC Manual on the Preparation and Certification of Educational Personnel, is widely recognized as the most comprehensive printed source of state-by-state information pertaining to the preparation, certification, and fitness of teachers and other school personnel. The Manual includes state-by-state information about major areas of interest, including:

  • certification requirements and standards;
  • examinations and assessments;
  • interstate mobility;
  • teacher training institutions and approved programs;
  • fingerprinting and screening for moral character;
  • support systems for beginning teachers;
  • performance standards and assessments; and
  • fees

The Manual, first published in 1984, is updated on a regular basis and is now in its fifth edition (2000). It consists of 12 sections, the first of which runs 201 pages and details the certification requirements of the 50 states, the District of Columbia, the Department of Defense Schools, 10 Canadian Provinces, and New Zealand. The separate sections cover initial certification requirements, requirements for the second stage of teacher certification, professional development, special education certification, and so on.

For more information …

Copies of The NASDTEC Manual on the Preparation and Certification of Educational Personnel can be purchased from Kendall/Hunt Publishing Company, 4050 Westmark Drive, P.O. Box 1840, Dubuque, IA 52004-1840, phone 800/228-0810, fax 800/772-9165. The cost of the manual is $79.95, plus appropriate state sales tax and $7.00 shipping for the first manual and $.50 for each subsequent copy in the same order. The Manual also is available online at NASDTEC’s web site at www.nasdtec.org.

Teacher Certification Publications

A much more compact and still comprehensive compilation of teacher certification requirements is the manual, Teacher Certification Requirements in All Fifty States, by Joel E. Boydston of Teacher Certification Publications. The current edition, which runs to 158 pages, is for 2001-02, and the 2002-03 edition—the twentieth—will ship in September 2002.

Teacher Certification Requirements 2001-02 presents the requirements for obtaining a teaching certificate in the 50 states and the District of Columbia, effective July 1, 2001. The requirements in the manual are derived from information supplied by the certification offices of each state and the District of Columbia, plus information from other organizations such as NASDTEC. Boydston’s manual attempts to reduce each state’s official written regulations from their formal legal language to a synopsis that is clear and concise.

Boydston’s manual is designed not only for educators who may be applying for certification in other states, but also as a reference book for libraries, colleges, and placement offices. He points out it is not unusual for several states to make significant changes to their certification requirements each year, with over 30 states making major or minor changes in their requirements this year. Some changes were as simple as the state joining the Interstate Certification Compact or raising fees, while others involved a complete rewrite of their regulations.

“The use of testing prior to acceptance in an education program at a college or university has become nearly universal,” says Boydston, noting many states have their own certification test or require taking Praxis pre-professional and subject area tests prior to issuing a teaching certificate.

For more information …

Joel E. Boydston’s manual, Teacher Certification Requirements 2001-02, is available for $27.00 ($28.89 without tax exemption) from Teacher Certification Publications, 603 NE Lakeview Drive, Sebring, FL 33870-7008; phone 863/382-4795, fax 863/382-7136, email [email protected]. Or order it on the Web at http://home.earthlink.net/~teachercertification/.