Barriers to online teaching across state lines: part 3, additional thoughts

The Keeping Pace research team is developing the first of a new set of policy briefs that we will be releasing in the coming months. These will represent the first Keeping Pace research that is released as a document separate from the annual report or the website. The first of these examines issues related to 21st century teachers who wish to reach students in multiple states. This is the third post in a series (see post one and post two) based on the draft report. As we have shared our initial thinking about the challenges to teaching across state lines and a possible solution, thoughtful commenters have raised several points that are worth exploring.

Several reviewers have weighed in with the view that, as one person put it, certification and teacher preparation are “broken” as neither address the ways that teachers must be prepared to teach with technology, or in blended schools, or in competency-based systems. As one experienced professional development provider said: “The days of teaching without technology are quickly disappearing, and any teacher moving into the field with potentially no online or blended experience will be unprepared.” Another reviewer noted, “licensure in general is not thought of as the most useful pathway toward ensuring high quality teachers.”

We agree with all of these ideas. Among the questions that a policy review must explore is the trade-off between what is ideal and what is possible in the near-term. The policy brief—at least in draft form—attempts to note the ideal while focusing on the possible.

Finally, several people have noted that many states are implementing or considering new teacher evaluation processes that are based in part on student achievement outcomes. To the extent that these changes are successfully implemented, and to the extent that they are able to assess teachers quickly based on student data, they will make inputs-based quality assurance methods—including teacher licensing—less important than they are currently. It is likely that some type of teacher licensing will always be necessary, if only to address the period in between when a teacher begins teaching and when data are first generated. Current practices, however, may give way to generally streamlined processes with a goal of moving more of the best-qualified teachers into more classrooms (virtual or physical) so that more students are learning from excellent teachers.

That change, however, is likely years away—making a near-term solution necessary.

We welcome your thoughts on all blog posts, but especially on this one as the policy brief is still in development. Please comment below or email me at