ERIC Identifier: ED277685
Publication Date: 1986-00-00
Source: ERIC Clearinghouse on Teacher Education
Teacher Certification. ERIC Digest 11.
Teacher certification is the education system's process for assuring
that public school teachers possess minimum qualifications. Each state
determines its own certification standards. Increased mobility among teachers
suggests that teacher candidates should have information about general
requirements for certification and about where to locate particular state
requirements. This digest provides information on certification purpose and
types, how to obtain information about requirements, and prospects for change in
THE PURPOSE OF CERTIFICATION
Certification is a process by which the state evaluates the credentials of
prospective teachers to ensure that they meet the professional standards set by
the state education agency. Certification ratifies the quality of teachers'
competence in subject area, educational methodology, teaching skills, and
potential classroom management ability (Roth and Mastain 1984). Closely linked
to certification is state program approval or institutional approval, which is
the state's process of evaluating schools, colleges, and departments of
education. The purpose of such approval is to ensure a common curriculum
framework and professional standards so that the state's teacher education
programs produce graduates who meet the state's certification requirements.
Some states have developed their own standards for the approval of individual
teacher preparation programs; however, the most commonly used standards are
those which have been developed by the National Association of State Directors
of Teacher Education and Certification (NASDTEC) and have been in the process of
almost constant revision for the past 35 years.
The Interstate Reciprocity Compact, initiated in 1969, provides for graduates
of approved teacher education programs in one participating state to be granted
a certificate in another participating state. Of the 37 states that have passed
reciprocity legislation, 33 state superintendents have signed legal contracts
which allow the granting of certificates and facilitate the movement of teachers
across state lines.
Many states have certification procedures and/or criteria mandated by state
legislatures and/or set by state boards of education, particularly since 1980.
Certification is a legal process. Criteria for certification, however, have
professional origins, and the state department of education's teacher
certification division carries out the process (Roth and Mastain 1984). Some
writers have made a distinction between certification and licensure. If
certification validates a person's skills as a teacher and licensure provides
for a process which permits teaching (Shulman and Sykes 1986), then "licensing"
appropriately describes the process in most states because it is a review of a
paper application to verify that teacher preparatory minimums have been met. The
terminology consistently used, however, is "certification" or "credentialing"
(see Roth and Mastain 1984; Burks 1986; AACTE 1986).
Certification requirements differ nationwide. NASDTEC publishes the MANUAL ON
CERTIFICATION AND PREPARATION OF EDUCATIONAL PERSONNEL IN THE UNITED STATES
(Roth and Mastain 1984), which describes each state's requirements.
TYPES OF TEACHER CERTIFICATION
Most states require that teacher candidates have graduated from a regionally
accredited higher education institution and provide automatic certification for
a candidate who has completed an approved teacher education program. Some states
will also grant certificates to applicants who have completed teacher
preparation programs approved by the National Council for the Accreditation of
Teacher Education (NCATE). In addition, many states require that the candidates
achieve satisfactory scores on state-required tests for beginning teachers. All
states also have a "credit count" process for qualifying for a certificate. An
analysis of the college transcript is completed to verify that the specific
coursework required is met. Provisional or temporary certificates are issued
while the applicant is completing the requirements for full certification.
All states have separate certification for teachers, administrators, and
other school professionals such as librarians, vocational educators, reading
specialists, and counselors. Most states offer certification specific to subject
area and grade level, although the range of categorized grade levels often
varies among states. Elementary school may be defined as K-6, 1-8, or 1-6;
middle school is listed as 4-8, 6-9, or 7-8; high school ranges from 6-12 to
10-12. Initial certification duration also varies, from a one- to three-year
provisional certificate in several states to a ten-year provisional certificate
in Iowa. Provisional certificate renewal may require satisfactory completion of
an induction program for beginning teachers; renewal of other certificates may
require proof of recent college credit in specific content areas or of specific
duration. The initial certificate's lifetime is not indicative of type: Kentucky
calls its ten-year initial certificate "provisional" (Burks 1986).
Most states issue emergency credentials to teachers who do not meet the
state's minimum requirements for a regular credential (Roth and Mastain 1984).
Some states allow alternative teacher certification for people who have not
completed college or university teacher education programs. For example, local
school districts in California can prepare teacher trainees who receive
credentials from the state just as graduates from institutional programs do
(ERIC Digest 1, 1986). Increasingly, states also offer provisional or
probationary certificates for teacher graduates who participate in sponsored
induction or internship programs.
An examination of certification requirements listed by NASDTEC (Roth and
Mastain 1984; AACTE 1986; and Burks 1986) yields the following information. All
states require the teacher applicant to have completed a bachelor's degree and a
state-approved teacher education program or the "credit count" coursework
requirements. Some states specify a minimum number of credit hours to be earned
in certain academic subjects. Most require a recommendation from the applicant's
undergraduate institution and notarized copies of college transcripts and of any
previously issued teacher certificates. California requires fingerprints. New
Jersey requires an "Oath of Allegiance." West Virginia and Hawaii require no
application fees; California requires more than $50 in fees. Requirements for
certification renewal also differ among the states and may include satisfactory
completion of a beginning teacher induction program, a specified number of
graduate credit hours, or specified advanced coursework.
Twenty-six states require examinations for certification. The National
Teachers' Examination (NTE) is used most often. Twelve states have mandated
examination requirements for certification that must be implemented no later
than 1989. Only four states have no examination requirement for entry into or
exit from a teacher education program (AACTE 1986).
HOW TO OBTAIN CURRENT CERTIFICATION REQUIREMENTS
The most reliable teacher certification information source for any state is
the teacher credentialing office of the state's education department. Forty-six
states refer certification inquiries to their teacher certification offices,
located in the Department of Education or Public Instruction. California and
Oregon have teacher licensing commissions that are separate from the state
department of education. Minnesota issues certification information from the
Personnel Licensing and Placement Office. In Illinois, the State Board of
Education, Certification Placement Section, offers the information.
In addition to the NASDTEC Manual, another reliable source of state
certification information is REQUIREMENTS FOR CERTIFCATION, an annual
publication of the University of Chicago Press (Burks 1986).
HOW ARE CERTIFICATION REQUIREMENTS EXPECTED TO DEVELOP?
Teacher certification has become increasingly important with the increase in
public concern for teaching quality and with the recognition that teachers, like
the rest of society, have become more mobile. The goal of NCATE and other
national teacher education organizations is to institute teacher preparation
programs in all states which will produce nationally acceptable candidates for
teacher certification (NCATE 1985).
The latest proposal for improving teacher certification processes comes from
the Carnegie Forum on Education and the Economy, Task Force on Teaching as a
Profession. Its much publicized report, "A Nation Prepared: Teachers for the
21st Century" (1986), includes a national certification plan. A national
certification board, supported and assisted by the teaching profession, would
define and control standards for the professional practice of teaching (Shulman
and Sykes 1986). National certification is proposed as a voluntary procedure
that would professionally enhance teachers' credentials by adding to, but not
replacing, state certification. Shulman and Sykes provide general content and
format proposals for evaluation procedures to be used in a national
"Tomorrow's Teachers," the recent Holmes Group report (1986), also expresses
concern for the prevailing diversity of certification procedures nationwide.
This group of education deans from research universities proposes the creation
of nationally standardized examinations to be required for all beginning
Both the Holmes and Carnegie reports consider national control of the
certification process as the best way to achieve standardized teacher
certification. National certification also would provide a forum for the
increased participation by professional education organizations in establishing
standards and certification procedures. For example, the American Association of
Colleges for Teacher Education (AACTE) accepted the national certification
concept at its 1986 annual meeting. AACTE is studying the proposed change in
certification requirements and the ways they will affect teacher education
programs. The group intends to issue a report in February 1987. The American
Federation of Teachers and the National Education Association also endorsed the
national certification board concept at their 1986 conventions. The presidents
of these two teachers' unions were named in September 1986 to Carnegie's
national board planning group. A national certification board is expected to be
operating by summer 1987 (EDUCATION WEEK September 10, 1986).
FOR MORE INFORMATION
American Association of Colleges of Teacher Education (AACTE). TEACHER POLICY
IN THE STATES: 50-STATE SURVEY OF LEGISLATIVE AND ADMINISTRATIVE ACTIONS. 1986.
ED 271 438.
Burks, M. P. REQUIREMENTS FOR CERTIFICATION. Fiftieth Edition. Chicago:
University of Chicago Press, 1986. Library of Congress Catalogue # A43-1905. ED
Carnegie Forum on Education and the Economy, Task Force on Teaching as a
Profession. "A Nation Prepared: Teachers for the 21st Century." May 1986. (ED
"Carnegie Forum Sets Panel on Teacher Certification." EDUCATION WEEK, Sept.
10, 1986, p. 7.
ERIC DIGEST 1. "Alternative Certification for Teachers." Washington, DC:
Educational Resources Information Center, 1986. (ED 266 137)
Flippo, R. F. "Teacher Certification Testing Across the U.S. and a
Consideration of Some of the Issues." Paper presented at the American
Educational Research Association, Chicago, 1985. ED 260 115.
Holmes Group. TOMORROW'S TEACHERS: A REPORT OF THE HOLMES GROUP. April 1986.
ED 270 454.
National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE). NCATE
REDESIGN. Washington, DC: NCATE. April 1985.
Roth, R. R. and R. Mastain (Eds.). THE NASDTEC MANUAL. National Association
of State Directors of Teacher Education and Certification, 1984.
Shulman, L. S. and G. Sykes. "A National Board for Teaching? In Search of a
Bold Standard." A paper commissioned for the Task Force on Teaching as a
Profession, Carnegie Forum on Education and the Economy, January, 1986.
"Teachers' Unions Vie for Professional Status, Back National Board."
EDUCATION WEEK, Sept. 10, 1986, p. 12.