Getting Teachers Where They're Needed Most:
The Case for Licensure Reciprocity
Prepared for the Center on Personnel Studies in Special Education
Paul T. Sindelar
Anne G. Bishop
Michele Gregoire Gill
University of Florida
Michael S. Rosenberg
Johns Hopkins University
(COPSSE Document No. RS-8)
Center on Personnel Studies in
UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA
CENTER ON PERSONNEL STUDIES IN SPECIAL EDUCATION
UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA
JOHNS HOPKINS UNIVERSITY
UNIVERSITY OF COLORADO BOULDER
INSTRUCTIONAL RESEARCH GROUP, LONG BEACH, CA
COPSSE research is focused on the preparation of special education professionals and its
impact on beginning teacher quality and student outcomes. Our research is intended to inform
scholars and policymakers about advantages and disadvantages of preparation alternatives and
the effective use of public funds in addressing personnel shortages.
In addition to our authors and reviewers, many individuals and organizations have contributed
substantially to our efforts, including Drs. Erling Boe of the University of Pennsylvania and
Elaine Carlson of WESTAT. We also have benefited greatly from collaboration with the National
Clearinghouse for the Professions in Special Education, the Policymakers Partnership, and their
parent organizations, the Council for Exceptional Children and the National Association of State
Directors of Special Education.
The Center on Personnel Studies in Special Education, H325Q000002, is a cooperative
agreement between the University of Florida and the Office of Special Education Programs of
the U. S. Department of Education. The contents of this document do not necessarily reflect the
views or policies of the Department of Education, nor does mention of other organizations imply
endorsement by them.
Sindelar, P. T., Bishop, A. G., Gill, M. G., Connelly, V., & Rosenberg, M. S. (2003).
Getting teachers where they're needed most: The case for licensure reciprocity.
(COPSSE Document Number RS-8). Gainesville, FL: University of Florida, Center on
Personnel Studies in Special Education.
Additional Copies may be obtained from:
P.O. Box 117050
University of Florida
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thatVork 352-392-2655 (Fax)
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please credit the source and support of the federal funds when
copying all or part of this document.
Reciprocity and National Certification 7
The NASDTEC Contract 7
Regional Reciprocity Agreements 8
National Certification 10
The Logic of Reciprocity 12
Teacher Shortages 12
The Reserve Pool 13
Within-State Variation 14
Teacher Mobility 15
Summary of Research on Reciprocity 16
Other Policy Initiatives to Promote Relocation 18
Salary Equalization 18
Credit for Experience 18
Pension Portability 18
Demographic Considerations 18
Summary of States and Reciprocity 19
Recommendations for Future Research 20
Proponents advance licensure reciprocity as a solution to the problem of teacher shortages. In
this paper, we describe existing national and regional reciprocity agreements and consider the
arguments underlying this solution. We use research on teacher shortages, the reserve pool,
within-state variation in demand, and teacher mobility to draw conclusions about the plausibility
of these arguments. Our analysis suggests that relocation from state to state has limited potential
to alleviate shortages. Instead, the evidence suggests that areas of need are better defined by
socioeconomic (SES) considerations than by state lines. A policy strategy with better potential
for reducing shortages would provide incentives for teachers to work in low socioeconomic
status, urban and rural schools.
Let us begin with a true story from one of our senior authors:
Several years ago, I got a tearful call from a former student. She had moved to the same
state where I had moved the year before and applied for a teaching certificate- which
was denied. She thought I might be able to help, and I was willing. Our new home state
was sorely short of qualified special education teachers, and Chris was one of the best I
had ever supervised. I told her not to worry, because I would make a couple of calls.
I met the same unyielding wall of illogic that Chris had. I remember pleading with a
woman in our state certification office: "I supervised Chris and can vouch for her. She's
one of the best teachers I've ever seen. We've got to give her a certificate. We need
teachers. We need teachers like her." Of course, I got nowhere.
Chris eventually got to teach via a temporary credential with deficiencies to satisfy. In fairness to
the state, her cross-categorical certificate presented a problem of interpretation to our state's
categorical system. Yet with severe teacher shortages, such as those in special education, a
capable teacher should have no problem moving from state to state. In fact, to the extent that
states depend upon a supply of teachers from elsewhere, they should act affirmatively in
recognizing qualified and experienced teachers from other states.
This familiar story illustrates the need for licensure reciprocity between states and the problems
that result without it. Curran, Abrahams, and Clarke (2001) defined licensure reciprocity as a
policy through which states deem "teachers . fully qualified . on the basis of a license
earned in another state" (p. 5). Licensure reciprocity is considered "full" or "true" when a license
earned in one state entitles a teacher to a license in another state-without having to pass teacher
tests, take deficiency courses, or satisfy other requirements. In their report for the State Higher
Education Executive Officers, Curran et al. argued that better licensure reciprocity would result
in greater teacher mobility and relocation in response to market opportunities. They posited the
existence of pools of unemployed teachers, fully credentialed elsewhere but unable to obtain a
license in their new home states or unwilling to subject themselves to the indignity of dealing
with the red tape it would take to get one. They asserted that granting teachers freedom of
movement would promote their sense of professionalism.
Schools have suffered shortages of special education teachers for decades, and the problem now
seems chronic and intractable. In this context, policies designed to promote the movement of
teachers from areas of surplus to areas of need-policies like licensure reciprocity-hold
promise for meeting unmet demand. In this paper, we consider licensure reciprocity as a possible
solution to the problem of special education teacher shortages. We first describe existing national
and regional reciprocity agreements and then consider the logic that underlies the reciprocity
solution. We synthesize the literature related to the elements of this logic and draw conclusions
about its plausibility. Our analysis suggests that relocation from state to state has limited
potential to alleviate shortages and that policy designed to promote it is an insufficient solution
to the problem. Instead, the evidence suggests that "areas of need" are better defined by SES than
by state lines. A policy strategy with better potential for addressing shortages would provide
incentives for teachers to work in low-SES urban and rural schools.
Throughout this paper, we consider the issue of licensure reciprocity from a national perspective.
Our argument is simple: In special education, where more than 43,000 teachers were less than
fully certified during the 2000-2001 school year (IDEAdata.org, n.d.), incentives for teachers to
relocate from state to state can be expected to have limited impact on the problem. By making
this assertion, however, we do not mean to suggest that improving licensure reciprocity would
solve nothing. To the contrary, we: (a) recognize the benefits to individual teachers of ready
access to professional credentials in other states, (b) believe that such recognition would enhance
teaching as a profession, and (c) recognize that policies to promote teacher in-migration in areas
of need are important to states that suffer shortages.
RECIPROCITY AND NATIONAL CERTIFICATION
The NASDTEC Contract
The National Association of State Directors of Teacher Education and Certification (NASDTEC)
oversees the NASDTEC Interstate Contract (1999), an agreement that has become the primary
means through which most states license qualified in-migrating teachers. Established in 1928, the
present contract has been accepted to some degree by 48 states and jurisdictions (Meyer,
Gaudiosi, Sampson, Tackett, & Wenda, 2001) and is in effect through 2005. This agreement,
formed by professional standards boards, commissions, and state departments of education in the
United States and its territories, guarantees that member states will accept another member
state's teacher preparation programs and licensure process to the degree that they are comparable
with their own licensure and program standards (National Association of State Directors of
Teacher Education and Certification [NASDTEC], 2000). In general, teacher licenses are not
issued automatically. States usually award a temporary or emergency credential to a fully
qualified teacher from another participating state with the provision that the candidate has 1 or 2
years to make up other requirements, such as extra course work, licensure exams, or security
measures (e.g., fingerprinting). Other support personnel (including administrators, aides, and
vocational teachers) are covered by separate agreements in the contract.
Different levels of licensure are granted to incoming teachers based on a state's basic and
ancillary requirements for credentialing. Member states may require: (a) completion of the
approved program in a comparable or broader discipline; (b) compliance with any recency,
ethical, or physical or mental fitness requirements; and (c) compliance with ancillary
requirements, including the possibility of post-baccalaureate study (NASDTEC, 1999). Teaching
experience is accepted if proof is provided of satisfactory, appropriate service for at least 27
months in the past 7 years. Over and above these basic agreements, member states can choose to
accept additional subsections of the contract, such as acceptance of alternative certification
programs or graduation from an unapproved teacher education program.
With the exception of five states (Iowa, Minnesota, Missouri, South Dakota, Wisconsin), all
states, the District of Columbia, Guam, and Puerto Rico have signed the NASDTEC contract.
Each state participates differently; for example, Alabama accepts 41 member states' licensure
criteria, while Wyoming accepts only 20 (Curran et al., 2001 Furthermore, variations exist in
the types of teaching licenses and programs accepted by individual states. Therefore, one state
may accept another state's elementary education license but not its middle school license.
For teachers and other education professionals, the NASDTEC Interstate Contract is the most
comprehensive reciprocity agreement among states currently in force. The contract is flexible:
Although it establishes entry-level requirements for out-of-state teachers, there is nothing to
prevent a member state or jurisdiction from loosening acceptance criteria for incoming teacher
applicants (NASDTEC, 2000). To address rapid growth in Las Vegas, for example, Nevada has
adopted a full reciprocity policy and now issues a license to any licensed teacher from elsewhere
(Meyer et al., 2001). The contract respects the autonomy of individual states to set their own
criteria for licensing teachers; at the same time, it provides a means for promoting teacher
mobility by expediting the certification process for out-of-state teachers. Another key strength of
the contract is that every 5 years it is revised to accommodate changes in states' certification and
licensure processes. By balancing respect for states' rights and commitment to professionalism,
the NASDTEC contract is probably as good an agreement as the profession can hope to get.
The strengths of the NASDTEC contract, in particular its flexibility and respect for states'
autonomy, are also limitations. The contract offers teachers only limited reciprocity. Many states
issue a provisional license, good for 1 or 2 years, to incoming teachers. For example, the
Massachusetts Department of Education web site on teacher certification (Massachusetts
Department of Education, 2001) states that "reciprocity is not automatic. Non-academic
requirements are not covered. Also, pre-requisite requirements and the Massachusetts Educator's
Tests are not covered under reciprocity. Other State tests cannot be substituted." Moreover, not
every state recognizes every other member state's license; indeed, not all states recognize all
categories of teacher licensure. Finally, according to Jayne Meyer, NASDTEC Vice President
(personal communication, July 31, 2001), the most significant problem with the NASDTEC
contract lies in implementation. Some states begin with the contract as a blueprint for
interpreting a particular applicant's credentials, whereas others still rely on transcript analysis.
Even an agreement as good as the NASDTEC contract has not done away with the problems that
arise when large bureaucracies implement complex policy.
Diversity in licensing is nowhere more evident than in special education. States may issue
categorical licenses-that is, differentiated by disability categories-or noncategorical licenses,
or both. Although special education licensure was originally categorical, today only 5 states offer
categorical licenses only, 13 states are strictly noncategorical, and 22 offer both categorical and
noncategorical licenses (Geiger, Crutchfield, & Mainzer, 2002). Eleven states differentiate by
severity, offering separate licenses to teach students with mild/moderate and severe/profound
disabilities, for example. A small number of otherwise noncategorical states distinguish by age
level. For example, Maine's "Teacher of Students with Disabilities" certificate is issued at K-8
and 7-12 levels. The number of special education licenses awarded by the states ranges from 1 to
13. Given this lack of state-to-state consistency, it is small wonder that licensure reciprocity is a
particular problem for special education.
Regional Reciprocity Agreements
Due to the complexity and limitations of the NASDTEC agreement, many states have joined in
regional reciprocity consortia, e.g., the Northeast Regional Credential (NRC), the Central States
Teacher Exchange Agreement (CSTEA), and MOINKSA (an acronym of first letters of
participating states' names) (Feistritzer & Chester, 2001). When instituted in 1990, NRC set the
standard for regional reciprocity agreements. It originated as the Chief State School Officers'
response to anticipated teacher shortages in the northern states (Janet Phlegar, personal
communication, September 13, 2001). The Northeast Common Market was formed to administer
the NRC and was funded by the Northeastern Regional Lab (Newton et al., 1989). When
government funding for this lab ended, Learning Innovations, a division of WestEd, a regional
educational lab in the West, took over the responsibility for overseeing the NRC and currently
serves as the facilitator of the NRC (WestEd, n.d.) under the direction of Janet Phlegar.
Nine jurisdictions (New York, Connecticut, Maine, New Hampshire, Rhode Island,
Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, Vermont, and the District of Columbia) currently offer teachers the
opportunity to obtain an NRC (New York State Department of Education, n.d.). The NRC
license is considered a true license, because teachers who hold it are considered fully certified.
In most cases, the NRC is valid for 2 years, except in Connecticut and Maine, where it is good
for 1 year. In all cases, individual teachers may renew their NRCs only once. During their
employment under the NRC, in-migrating teachers are still responsible for completing any
additional requirements, such as fingerprinting, course work, or tests.
According to Mary Stenson, the NRC specialist at Learning Innovations (personal
communication, October 5, 2001), the majority of NRC holders have migrated to New York.
Most teachers, however, do not apply for a regional credential, even if they are interested in
moving to another state. To date, 2,887 teachers have applied for NRCs, and 2,852 have been
issued, 15% to special education teachers. The NRC has limited utility, because many of these
northeastern states have established easier ways of obtaining licensure, particularly for broad
areas such as elementary education. The primary advantage of the NRC is that it offers an
alternative if reciprocity with a state is difficult to achieve, as in special education (Janet
Phlegar, personal communication, September 13, 2001). This measure allows teachers to delay
completing additional requirements of a particular state for at least a year.
Less information is available about the other two agreements. As reciprocity agreements and not
regional licenses, these are more similar to NASDTEC than to the NRC. The CSTEA is a 5-year
agreement among Illinois, Missouri, Oklahoma, Iowa, Nebraska, Kansas, South Dakota,
Michigan, and Wisconsin, four of which (Wisconsin, Iowa, Missouri, and South Dakota) do not
participate in the NASDTEC contract. Licensed teachers in any one of the participating states or
those who have completed a regionally accredited teacher education program are eligible to
receive a 2-year license in the receiving state. An advantage of this agreement is that special
education licensure requirements are compatible or equivalent in each state (Wisconsin
Department of Public Instruction, n.d.). However, to obtain a regular teaching license in a state,
in-migrating teachers must complete any additional requirements a state might impose (Curran et
MOINKSA is like the CSTEA in two ways. First, non-NASDTEC states are well represented
among MOINKSA members (Missouri, Iowa, South Dakota). Second, although the states
involved assert that MOINKSA does not offer reciprocity (Iowa Department of Education, n.d.),
this agreement allows teachers who have earned a license in one of the participating states to
receive a 2-year conditional license in another member state. For full licensure, applicants must
satisfy whatever requirements the receiving state imposes.
The regional agreements, like the NASDTEC contract, do not offer true reciprocity. Even the
NRC, which offers the closest approximation, is limited by the prerogative of member states to
accept or reject licenses. Connecticut, which offers its own graduates the opportunity to apply for
an NRC license, does not accept NRC licenses in any area. Like the NASDTEC contract,
regional agreements do not eliminate the need for incoming teachers to take state competency
tests (Koepke, 1990).
Regional agreements may cover teachers who are neglected by the NASDTEC contract. For
instance, the NRC "captures more" teachers and allows for mobility by providing reciprocity for
complex certification areas, such as special education. In addition, some of the agreements,
including the NRC, are standards-based. According to Phlegar, the formation of the Interstate
New Teacher Assessment and Support Consortium (INTASC) was based on the research and
guidelines established by the NRC. Thus, the INTASC standards may make regional agreements
obsolete, at least for beginning teachers. Although unique for its time in addressing teacher
mobility in the traditionally supply-heavy Northeast, the NRC is now used mostly for special
situations (Phlegar, personal communication, September 13, 2001).
In sum, the primary benefits of regional agreements are their greater specificity and agreement
on complex aspects of licensure, such as special education, as well as their potential to set
uniform standards for teacher preparation. In addition, some, such as the NRC, are portable and
are not considered temporary or emergency credentials, which is an attraction to schools looking
to boost their image as employing fully certified teachers. On the other hand, regional
agreements have limitations: They do not guarantee true reciprocity, and in-migrating teachers
must still apply for the state's own teaching license within a year or two.
An alternative to reciprocity is national licensure. The concept of national certification differs
from the concept of national licensure. Whereas licensure refers to the satisfaction of minimum
standards of competence, certification is recognition of significant professional accomplishment.
Proponents argue that: (a) national licensure would standardize the preparation of the teaching
work force and simplify licensure issues for states, and (b) universal adoption would mitigate the
need for reciprocity agreements. While recognizing states' rights to establish and to regulate
professional teacher standards, professional organizations, state officials, and teacher educators
also recognize the need to develop formalized teacher standards. The National Board for
Professional Teaching Standards (NBPTS) and INTASC are the result of collaboration among
these groups. Although the original intent of both organizations was to establish model standards
for the licensure of beginning teachers and the certification of accomplished veterans, NBPTS
and INTASC provide coherent frameworks for states to consider when developing or refining
licensure guidelines. Both NBPTS and INTASC contribute a new level of uniformity in teaching
standards and have the potential to support reciprocal agreements among states.
The National Board for Professional Teaching Standards. NBPTS was established in
1987 to create advanced certification standards for accomplished teachers (Darling-Hammond,
1999). The NBPTS was a collaborative effort among professionals as 187 independent
organizations contributed to the establishment of the standards (Darling-Hammond). The original
goal of NBPTS was to advance the teaching profession and improve student learning (Bailey &
Helms, 2000) by instituting a stringent professional certification structure similar to those found
in other high-status professions. The established certification standards were based on a broad
vision of what teachers should know and be able to do.
By recognizing the expertise required in teaching, NBPTS certification is thought to enhance the
professionalism of the field. Certification is offered in over 25 fields for teachers having at least
3 years of experience. As of June 2001, 4,804 teachers had received Board certification (National
Board for Professional Teaching Standard [NBPTS], n.d.). In the last year, the NBPTS
established Board certification for special educators, allowing PreK to 12+ educators to seek
recognition (Helms, 2000). With increasing numbers of teachers seeking Board certification in
an increasing number of categories, states are responding with changes in certification policies
and incentive programs. In a recent survey of 38 states, 22 acknowledged awarding licensure to
new applicants solely on the basis of a valid NBPTS certificate (NASDTEC, 2000). Twenty-
eight states provide benefits for teachers earning an NBPTS certificate. The certification
structure provides a framework for identifying and rewarding accomplished teachers and
establishes common ground among teacher educators, professional organizations, state agencies,
and policy makers.
The Interstate New Teacher Assessment and Support Consortium. INTASC was
established in 1992 under the auspices of the Council of Chief State School Officers (Interstate
New Teacher Assessment and Support Consortium [INTASC], 2001). Its purpose was to support
state collaboration in redesigning teacher assessment for the licensure of beginning teachers.
Model standards for the licensure of new teachers were developed using the NBPTS advanced
certification standards as a framework. State and professional organizations joined forces to
establish core principles for beginning teachers. Subsequently, subject matter, elementary, and
special education standards were developed. The special education standards build upon the
premise that all general and special education teachers are responsible for providing an
appropriate education for students with disabilities.
NBPTS and INTASC support performance-based standards and assessments that reflect the
expertise required of today's teachers. These organizations recognize states' responsibilities to
establish standards and to offer a coherent structure that state agencies, teacher preparation
programs, and professional organizations may use to develop standards of their own. INTASC
and NBPTS are fusing partnerships with the National Council for the Accreditation of Teacher
Education (NCATE), which accredits teacher preparation programs. The national alignment of
accreditation standards for preservice programs provides an additional link to a more consistent
licensing structure among states (Wise, 1994).
The combined efforts of NBPTS, INTASC, and NCATE provide a common framework for
program accreditation as well as teacher licensure and advanced certification. Despite the
alignment of standards, the acknowledgment of common core principles, and a developing
consensus among diverse professional groups, state autonomy continues to prevail. In fact, the
NASDTEC survey (NASDTEC, 2000) revealed great disparities among states on issues relating
to board certification. States differ in the incentives offered for board certification and in the
length of time such certification is valid. Such differences highlight the difficulties in
establishing a common framework, even using the established NBPTS structure. Although the
establishment of core principles and model standards for teachers appears to lay the groundwork
for national licensure, questions remain. Are states willing to relinquish their autonomy to
regulate licensure? Will doing so alleviate teacher shortages? What sociopolitical issues must be
overcome to establish commonalities among states? Who would orchestrate national licensure?
In special education, how would variations in licensure structures be resolved? Without answers
to these questions, it appears a national licensure structure remains at the extreme end of a
continuum of solutions addressing problems relating to reciprocal agreements between states.
THE LOGIC OF RECIPROCITY
In the introduction to their paper, "Solving Teacher Shortages Through Licensure Reciprocity,"
Curran et al. (2001), writing on behalf of the State Higher Education Executive Officers, argued
that "veteran teachers are discouraged from seeking teaching opportunities in other districts or
states by the lack of reciprocity in licensing. . As a result, many good teachers leave the
profession prematurely. Similarly, many talented individuals are discouraged from considering
teaching as a career" (p. 1). They also asserted that "policies that enhance teacher mobility also
.. provide greater opportunities to recruit teachers to schools where they are in greatest need"
(p. 2). By giving "teachers the freedom of movement enjoyed by other high-status professions"
(p. 1), reciprocity policy would enhance the quality of teachers' professional lives.
For Curran and her colleagues (2001), improving licensure reciprocity would reap many benefits
for schools struggling to constitute and sustain a professional staff. Their argument about state-
to-state mobility is based on the assumption that some states experience shortages and others do
not. Thus, the solution to the problem of shortages resides in redistributing teachers from areas of
surplus to areas of need and in developing policies that encourage teachers to move from state to
state. According to this analysis, teachers also stand to benefit from improved reciprocity policy.
They may relocate more readily in response to market conditions and enjoy higher professional
In this section, we consider the argument that reciprocity may help to alleviate special education
teacher shortages. With data from OSEP Annual Reports to Congress reported by the U. S.
Department of Education (USDOE, n.d.), we consider the possibility that surpluses exist in
enough states and that they are sufficiently large to address shortages in other states. We then
describe what is known about the reserve pool of special education teachers, the extent to which
it supplements teacher supply, and the likelihood that improved reciprocity will entice reserve
pool teachers to return to the classroom. We also consider research on within-state patterns of
teacher shortages-patterns obscured in data aggregated at state and national levels. We then
review research on teacher mobility.
The findings from these studies allow us to judge the extent to which teachers move in response
to market conditions-as Curran and her colleagues (2001) and others believe-and to ascertain
other factors that may influence teachers' decisions to change jobs. This research and the special
education research on supply and demand suggest an alternative policy strategy for coping with
critical teacher shortages. This strategy, which does not rely on teachers' moving from state to
state, would not be enhanced by improved reciprocity.
In special education, teacher shortages are real, chronic, and severe. USDOE (n.d.) reported that
in 2000-2001 over 43,000 teachers were needed nationally to fill vacancies and replace less than
fully qualified practitioners. USDOE considers teachers less than fully certified "if they [do] not
hold standard State certification or licensure for the position to which they were assigned"
(USDOE, 1996). This estimate undoubtedly includes some teachers who have moved and were
unable to obtain "full certification" from their new home states. However, this number is likely
to be small. Thus, from a national perspective and on the basis of shortage data, teacher
movement from state to state would seem to solve nothing and merely to shift the shortage
burden from one jurisdiction to another. Individual states may benefit at the expense of other
states, but nationally state-to-state relocation amounts to little more than robbing Peter to pay
Yet the issue is not as simple as shortage data imply. For one thing, we know that shortages are
unevenly distributed, both across and within states. USDOE annually reports shortages by state.
In 2000-2001, the most recent year for which such data are available, Connecticut and
Massachusetts reported no shortages of teachers for students with disabilities aged 3 to 21
(USDOE, n.d.a, n.d.b); and in four other states and territories, shortages did not exceed 2%. On
the other hand, shortages averaged 11.4% nationally and exceeded 20% in six states, including
California and New York.
Moreover, according to a recent national survey of state certification agencies, all but five states
reported that they would be "very likely" to hire immediately a fully qualified special education
major. One of the exceptions, New York, reported that they would be "very likely" to do so in
New York City (Feistritzer & Chester, 2001, Table 14c). In addition, 14 states reported that they
would be "very likely" to hire a special education major who was not fully certified, and 23 more
states and New York City would be "somewhat likely" to do so. This evidence confirms USDOE
data: Clearly, the shortage of special education teachers is a problem for most states. As a result,
state-to-state mobility-and policies to enhance it-would have limited impact on special
education teacher shortages aggregated nationally.
The Reserve Pool
Improved reciprocity policy, however, may foster reserve pool teachers' reentry into teaching.
Although the existence of a reserve pool of qualified but unemployed teachers is well established
(Boe, Cook, Bobbitt, & Terhanian, 1998; Merrow Report, 1999), USDOE data do not estimate
oversupply or indicate oversupply where it exists. To ascertain whether better reciprocity would
promote relocation reentry, it would be necessary to determine if reserve pool members are
willing to move across state lines-and are hampered in doing so by the lack of reciprocity or by
the limitations of existing reciprocity agreements.
Researchers in both general education and special education have attempted to analyze the
elements of teacher supply (Boe et al., 1998; Boe, Cook, Kaufman, & Danielson, 1996;
Lauritzen & Friedman, 1993). The concept of a reserve pool emerged from data analyses
conducted over the past 15 years. Initially, it was broadly defined as individuals who are
qualified to teach but not currently teaching (Cagampang, Garms, Greenspan, & Guthrie, 1985;
Haggstrom & Darling-Hammond, 1988) and included: (a) teachers currently on leave, (b) former
teachers, (c) college graduates prepared to teach but not employed as teachers, and (d) college
graduates who did not prepare to teach. A more recent definition appeared in Boe's work on
teacher supply and demand. According to Boe and his colleagues (1996), the reserve pool
consists of: (a) delayed-entry, first-time teachers and (b) experienced teachers reentering the
Lauritzen and Friedman (1993) posited that teachers leave and reenter the profession at various
times during their careers, often for personal reasons. In an analysis of teacher shortages,
Ingersoll (2001) suggested this revolving-door pattern constitutes temporary attrition. In a 1989
National Education Association survey of practicing teachers, one third acknowledged that they
had taken leave for at least 1 year during their careers (National Education Association, 1989).
Feistritzer (1989) estimated that as many as 45% of teachers have a break in service. Other
researchers have reported estimates of the proportion of these teachers who return to the
classroom. Singer (1993a, 1993b), for instance, studied the career paths of 2,700 special
educators in Michigan and determined that 34% of former teachers returned to the classroom
within 5 years of leaving. Haberman and Rickards (1990) found that 90% of the 124 teachers
who left the Milwaukee Public Schools returned to teaching, often outside of Milwaukee's urban
area. Clearly, reserve pool members contribute substantially to the supply of teachers. Although
the extent to which they relocate to reenter the work force is not fully known, existing evidence
suggests that improved reciprocity policy may be of limited use in attracting reserve pool
returnees to where they are needed most.
The most recent national reserve pool estimates are drawn from Boe's analyses of School and
Staffing Survey (SASS) and Teacher Follow-up Survey data (Boe et al., 1998; Boe et al., 1996).
In its 1998 review of these and other studies, the U. S. Department of Education reported that the
proportion of reserve pool teachers among all new hires had dropped from 66% in 1988-1989, to
50% in 1990-1991, and to 33% in 1993-1994 (USODE, 1998). This precipitous decrease led the
Department of Education to conclude that the reserve pool "is rapidly becoming depleted" (p.
111-17). However, in their preliminary analysis of 1999-2000 SASS data, Boe, Cook, and
Barkanic (2003) found that reserve pool hires constituted 41% of all new hires that year. This
datum is consistent with a declining trend, but the decrease may not be as marked as initially
Recent data from Connecticut corroborate these findings. In this study, Beaudin, Thompson, and
Prowda (2000) defined the reserve pool to include: (a) teachers certified more than 1 year earlier
but not teaching, (b) former educators, and (c) educators certified in previous years who had not
taught. In their analysis of the availability of reserve pool teachers, Beaudin et al. predicted
minor shortages in speech/language, media, and health but more significant shortages in special
education, where they projected a deficit of 171 teachers for 1999 to 2003. They attributed these
shortages to a shrinking reserve pool. Its diminution also was evidenced by a shortage of
substitute teachers, often former teachers who are considering a return to the classroom. Taken
together, these two studies suggest at best a diminishing number of reserve pool returnees; at
worst, the studies indicate a depletion of the reserve pool itself. Although far from definitive,
these data suggest that the reserve pool, once the prime source of teacher supply in the late
1980s, may no longer make the same key contribution to the supply of new hires.
Beaudin et al.'s analysis (2000) also indicated that Connecticut's reserve pool members are
highly selective when returning to work and have specific job preferences. Like the teachers in
Haberman and Rickards's study (1990) who left Milwaukee for suburban districts, Connecticut
returnees were shown to prefer positions in suburbs and small towns and to avoid urban and rural
areas. Previously, Beaudin (1995) had reported that reserve pool members were more likely to
return to districts that were affluent and offered adequate salaries and classroom support.
Ingersoll (2001) also concluded that location per se was less important in attracting and retaining
teachers than the organizational characteristics and conditions of schools. Taken together, these
data suggest that returning reserve pool members often do change districts, moving out of cities
to suburbs and small towns. Such relocations are unlikely to involve moving from state to state,
but they may. Although improved reciprocity would facilitate such movement, any policy that
promotes relocation to low-need districts will have limited impact on shortages.
Studies of shortages within states also suggest that in hiring and retaining teachers certain
schools are advantaged relative to others. In analyzing SASS data, Ingersoll (2001) reported far
greater variability in teacher shortages within states than between states. Lauritzen and Friedman
(1993) found that shortages of special education teachers in Wisconsin were most severe in
Milwaukee, suburban Milwaukee enjoyed a surplus of teachers, and shortages in the rest of the
state were judged no worse than "slight." To the extent that these data are representative of other
states' distributions, the shortage problem may be more amenable to within-state, not between-
state, teacher relocation.
Data from Texas bear this out. In a statewide study of teacher mobility, the Texas Education
Agency (1995) described a mobility pattern "from urban districts to suburban districts" (p. 21).
Hanushek, Kain, and Rivkin (1999), describing the same phenomenon, asserted that moving
away from low-income schools was even more probable than moving to high-salary schools.
Thus, when economic considerations do affect teachers' relocation, the deciding factor is more
likely to be a school's SES than a teacher's salary.
The National Association of State Boards of Education (NASBE, 1998) reached the same
conclusion. Their report on teacher supply and demand asserted that "wealthy districts rarely
experience shortage; low-income ones do." NASBE also argued that a district's ability to attract
teachers varies with working conditions. Moreover, wealthy districts get many applicants,
whereas high-poverty districts get fewer. This claim is substantiated by data from individual
states. In Connecticut, for instance, Beaudin and her colleagues (1998, 2000) found that unequal
distribution of teachers resulted from two sources. First, new teachers applied selectively to
specific districts in Connecticut, with 75% preferring to work in suburban schools. Second,
employed teachers, when they moved from a district, were much more likely to leave
disadvantaged districts and move to wealthier ones than vice versa. Beaudin also found that more
teachers preferred to teach close to home, which for a white and middle class work force tends to
be suburbs and small towns. As many researchers have found, high-poverty districts lack
resources and working conditions to attract and retain good teachers (Beaudin, 1998; Ingersoll,
1999; NASBE, 1998). The SASS study also supported this conclusion: High-poverty schools (at
least 50% of students on free or fee-reduced lunch) are more difficult to staff than more affluent
schools (less than 15% free or fee-reduced lunch).
How often do teachers move from state to state? What prompts them to move? A picture of
teacher mobility can be pieced together from existing research, although this literature clarifies
little about the reciprocity question (other than to offer estimates of the number of teachers who
move from state to state in the current political context). The literature has established that
younger teachers are more mobile and more likely than older teachers to relocate to other states
(Hanushek et al., 1999; Ingersoll, 1999; Shen, 1997; Texas Education Agency Austin Division of
Policy Planning and Evaluation, 1995). Yet beginning teachers make up a fairly small proportion
of all special education teachers (Boe et al., 1998). Although mobility and attrition are high
among young, inexperienced teachers, few specifics about how many of them actually do
relocate to new states are known.
In a study of teacher retention and mobility in Texas, the Texas Education Agency's Policy
Analysis and Evaluation Division (1995) estimated mobility to exceed 10%. However, their
definition of mobility was limited to school-to-school and district-to-district movement within
the state. State-to-state mobility was considered an element of attrition, which in this study was
defined as all teachers employed by Texas schools in 1991-1992 who were not employed by
Texas schools in 1992-1993. Attrition was estimated to be 8% of the teaching work force. When
these leavers were asked to explain why they left teaching, 10% reported a "family or personal
move" as the reason. Among the many reasons for leaving, "family or personal move" was the
only option that might have included state-to-state mobility. Thus, at most, 0.8% of all Texas
teachers could have moved to another state and taught there. The subset of these teachers who
moved in response to labor market forces-the availability of jobs or the availability of higher
paying jobs in other states-is unknown.
Hanushek et al. (1999) reported a separate analysis of Texas data in which transitions from 1993
to 1996 were analyzed. These authors reported estimates of movement from school to school
within a district, from district to district within the state, and out of Texas schools, a figure that
presumably included teachers moving to other states. Although their estimate of attrition, 13.7%,
exceeded the earlier estimate, out-of-state movement was not quantified. However, Hanushek et
al.'s findings did illuminate within-state movement. They reported that teachers tended to move
to jobs where they worked with "higher achieving, non-minority, non-low income students" (p.
24) and that these student characteristics exerted a more powerful influence on teacher mobility
than salary. These findings support the idea that correcting within-state distribution may be a
more fruitful policy approach than facilitating reciprocity.
The Study of Personnel Needs in Special Education (SPeNSE) offers more data relevant to this
question. In their survey of 8,000 special education teachers, SPeNSE researchers found that
three fourths were employed in the same state in which they were trained. Furthermore, of the
9% of teachers who were not fully certified for their current positions, only 12% indicated that
they were fully certified elsewhere. Thus, the best current estimate of the proportion of the
special education work force that might benefit from improved reciprocity policy is a little over
1% (12% of 9%, or 1.08%). Furthermore, the proportion of fully certified teachers did not differ
for teachers prepared in state or out of state (E. Carlson, personal communication, June 4, 2002).
In the SPeNSE sample, about 70% of the teachers did not move to accept their current positions,
and an additional 11% moved no more than 50 miles (SPeNSE, n.d.a). Of the 30% who did
move, two thirds did not move from one state to another (SPeNSE, n.d.b). Thus, we may
estimate from the SPeNSE data that 10% of the sample moved from one state to assume their
current positions. The fact that only 1.08% were not fully certified suggests that most had little
trouble getting certified in their new home states.
Finally, in a study of New York City's beginning teachers, Darling-Hammond, Chung, and
Frelow (2002) reported that only 1.5% of their sample first earned a credential in another state.
This finding is interesting for several reasons. For one thing, New York, which is a member of
both the NASDTEC compact and the Northeast Common Market, is the biggest benefactor of
Common Market migration. For another, New York City lies within easy commuting distance of
both New Jersey and Connecticut. Given these factors, it is surprising that so few of New York
City's beginning teachers are recruited from out of state.
Summary of Research on Reciprocity
In special education, teacher shortages are severe and pervasive, but they vary from state to state.
Because shortages are nationwide, state-to-state migration would seem to solve nothing, except
from the perspective of an individual state. Many new hires come from a reserve pool of
currently unemployed teachers, and improved reciprocity might facilitate their return to the work
force. However, little is known about the extent to which reserve pool members cross state lines
when returning to work. What we do know about their employment preferences suggests that
they tend to move away from districts where need is greatest, and a similar pattern is evident in
studies of teacher mobility. Teachers tend to leave jobs in high-poverty, low-performing schools
and districts for jobs in higher SES and higher performing schools and districts. Often this
pattern involves moving from cities to suburbs and towns. Thus, improving reciprocity to
promote state-to-state relocation would seem to have limited impact on recruiting teachers for
high-need schools. However, states have attempted to promote such movement with other policy
OTHER POLICY INITIATIVES TO PROMOTE RELOCATION
Connecticut and Kansas have reduced teacher shortages in urban and rural areas by
implementing salary equalization programs across high-and low-need districts (NASBE, 1998).
Moreover, in 1998, a new Mississippi policy offered a scholarship, professional development,
computer, mentoring, home loan, and $1,000 in moving expenses for teachers seeking masters
degrees who agreed to teach in critical shortage areas for at least 3 years (Hirsch, 2001).
Credit for Experience
By credit for experience, we mean position on a salary scale and corresponding benefits (e.g.,
health insurance, sick leave, professional development). Credit for experience may be a powerful
incentive or disincentive to experienced teachers considering a move. For experienced teachers,
the amount of credit offered for experience may be a critical element in their decisions to
relocate. A few states (notably Nevada, Texas, Washington) have complete portability for in-
state teaching experience, whereas other states allow districts to grant credit (Hirsch, Koppich, &
Knapp, 2001). The loss of benefits and credit for experience may discourage teacher relocation
from state to state.
Pension portability is the extent to which workers may transfer their retirement benefits without
significant loss of value when they change jobs. Despite other inducements, experienced teachers
may be reluctant to relocate if their retirement benefits are not fully transferable. In many states,
K-12 teachers are enrolled in separate retirement plans. Although state legislatures have passed
legislation in recent years designed to increase the portability for other groups of workers, they
have been slow to develop comprehensive policies that respond to the mobility needs of teachers
(Ruppert, 2001). Ruppert speculated that one reason for this lack of response from the states may
be an underlying assumption that teaching is not a mobile profession and that teachers tend to
take and keep jobs close to where they live or have attended college. There is some evidence to
support such an assumption. In the SPeNSE analysis, for example, over 80% of the respondents
had moved no more than 50 miles for their current jobs.
As we have seen, less experienced teachers relocate more often than those with more experience
(Hanushek et al., 1999; Ingersoll, 1999; Shen, 1997; Texas Education Agency Austin Division of
Policy Planning and Evaluation, 1995). More experienced teachers may relocate less often
because of family and financial obligations (Haggstrom & Darling-Hammond, 1988). By
assuring that these obligations can be met, at least in part, through the assurance of pension
portability, states can have greater influence in motivating experienced teachers to relocate than
through recognition of a teaching certificate.
Certain demographic aspects of the teaching force also influence teacher mobility. Women may
choose teaching because of the flexibility it allows for leaving and returning to the work force
(Haggstrom & Darling-Hammond, 1988), and research has shown that women do leave to raise
families (Boe, Bobbitt, & Cook, 1997). Furthermore, Lauritzen (1990) observed that the teacher
in a family is often not the primary wage earner. Women who leave the field may seek to reenter
teaching in the future, but where they choose to teach may be more a factor of spousal
employment than market conditions or licensure reciprocity.
Summary of States and Reciprocity
Clearly, full reciprocity alone will not dramatically increase the number of qualified special
educators who migrate to seek employment. In fact, relative to pensions and other benefits,
licensure may exert little influence on teachers' decision-making, and lack of reciprocity may be
considered more an inconvenience than a barrier. Still, reciprocity works to assist states with
their primary goal of ensuring that special education teachers moving to their state meet minimal
qualifications and standards. Many states use reciprocity agreements as a gate-keeping function,
allowing ready access to credentials to those who come from other states that share common
views of teaching (e.g., specific standards) and teacher preparation (e.g., categorical or
noncategorical programming). Individuals who do not fulfill all requirements for a state license
must complete course work or other prescribed activities. However, to attract qualified
candidates in times of critical shortages, states may suspend requirements that limit reciprocity.
For example, in 1997, California enacted the Credentialed Out-of-State Teacher Recruitment and
Retention Act, which authorized districts to employ any teacher holding a valid elementary,
secondary, or special education credential from another state. Teachers were granted a 5-year
preliminary credential but were required to complete the California requirements for a standard
professional credential (Curran et al., 2001). Similarly, Florida legislators recently authorized
granting full license reciprocity to out-of-state teachers with standard certificates and 2 years of
teaching experience in another state-without placing additional requirements on a candidate
(Curran et al.).
RECOMMENDATIONS FOR FUTURE RESEARCH
In this paper, we have attempted to make the case that improving reciprocity policy would have
limited impact on special education teacher shortages. Our argument had several elements and
began with a consideration of reciprocity policy as it exists today. We argued that the NASDTEC
Contract is about as good an agreement among states as is ever likely to be forged. It recognizes
states' responsibility-and prerogative-to establish standards for teacher licensure and allows
states discretion in implementing the agreement. All but five states have signed on, and four of
these are members of regional consortia. On the other hand, state-to-state differences in the way
special education licensure is organized present a particular problem for states.
Thinking back to the vignette with which we began this paper, Florida may have been right to
question Chris's application for a teaching license. After all, her Pennsylvania license was
noncategorical. The question of which categorical license Chris was most qualified for was
surely not a simple determination for Florida to make. Of course, Chris was inconvenienced and
upset by her experience. Given the demand for teachers, it seems illogical and unfortunate that a
special educator as capable as she would be denied professional recognition. Had Chris had
national certification, however, both she and the state might have been spared this
We believe that the field is making progress in establishing such national certification. INTASC
and NBPTS standards are in place for beginning and experienced teachers, and states are signing
on. INTASC and NBPTS certification may someday substitute for transcript analysis and thereby
facilitate teacher relocation.
There are reasons to believe that neither national certification nor improved licensure reciprocity
would have a dramatic impact on shortages. Because special education teacher shortages are
nationwide, licensure reciprocity cannot alleviate shortages from a national perspective. States
may be advantaged in the competition for teachers by implementing reciprocity policy to
promote in-migration, as some states are doing already. Nevada licenses any teacher who has
completed an approved teacher education program elsewhere. However, if other states were to
do the same, Nevada's advantage would be diluted, and other incentives to promote in-migration
would be required to regain it.
We also considered the possibility that better licensure reciprocity might encourage reserve pool
teachers to return to work in areas of great need. We know that a substantial number of all new
hires are reserve pool members. Although its impact may be diminishing, we also know that
many teachers leave the field with the intent to return to work, thereby guaranteeing a continuing
supply from this reserve. However, we know little about the extent to which reserve pool
returnees relocate to find work or the extent to which relocation involves moving from state to
state. We do know that returnees often return to the districts in which they taught previously.
We also know that when they do relocate, it is often to higher SES, higher achieving schools.
Within states, shortages are more likely to occur in relatively disadvantaged schools. In some
states, such shortages exist side by side with surpluses in more affluent neighboring districts.
When teachers do move, they are likely to move away from low-income, highly diverse schools
with low-achieving students to less diverse, higher SES, higher achieving schools. This tendency
also accounts for the pattern of flight from city schools to suburbs and small towns. For states
with such inequitable distribution of shortages-and relocation patterns that exacerbate them-
reciprocity offers little relief.
We believe that a more sensible policy approach for supporting state-to-state relocation would
include three elements: (a) policies that encourage teachers to work in disadvantaged urban and
rural schools must be promulgated; (b) states would be well served by establishing policy that
recognizes in-migrating teachers's service, both on the salary scale and with regard to other
benefits; and (c) most importantly, the issue of pension portability must be addressed.
Experienced teachers are not likely to move if they would lose their stake in a retirement system,
regardless of how easy it might be to obtain a license elsewhere.
In spite of our skepticism about licensure reciprocity as a solution to the problem of critical
teacher shortages, our analysis of this literature has brought to light interesting, important, and
unanswered questions that future research must address. First, we found no information about the
proportion of new teacher hires who are state-to-state migrants. We need to know who migrates
and why. In asking why, we would hope to learn the extent to which teachers relocate in
response to market conditions. Our discussion- indeed, the entire national conversation about
problem. Second, because a subset of migrants will be members of the reserve pool, we need to
know the proportion of reentering reserve pool members who relocate to new states. In our
opinion, more information about the reserve pool generally also would be useful and pertinent.
As we described, the declining trend in the proportion of new hires from the reserve pool is
based on only four data points; more data would allow for more reliable trend estimation.
Finally, we need to know which policies promote migration to high-need schools-whether
state-to-state, district-to-district, or school-to-school. Our reading of the literature suggests
strongly that policies that promote relocation to high-needs schools have greater potential to
solve the problem of shortages than licensure reciprocity policies.
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