Oklahoma enacts legislation recognizing other states’ teaching certificates

We have previously examined issues related to teaching online across state lines in a report and subsequently in a blog post. As we originally explained: "States require that teachers be licensed in each state in which they teach. This patchwork set of licensing requirements has not been a problem for most teachers over the last century, because so few teachers taught in multiple states at the same time. Mechanisms to allow experienced teachers to gain a license in a new state were created by each state for teachers who permanently moved across state lines. In addition, many states created alternative licensing mechanisms for professionals with subject-area expertise who wished to switch careers and teach in public schools.

Neither of these mechanisms is sufficient, however, for a new kind of 21st century professional—those who are teaching online and therefore able to reach students in multiple states concurrently. These teachers, who may work for public organizations, non-profit organizations, or companies, must go through a laborious and time-consuming process to become licensed in each of the states in which their students reside. Although the employers may be able to assist teachers in gaining licenses in multiple states, much of the burden falls to the teachers.

Our research demonstrates that reciprocity and alternative licensing methods are not sufficient to significantly lower the barriers of teaching concurrently in multiple states. Reciprocity agreements vary between states, and are often not mutual. They may also be only partial or temporary.

The report proposes a solution, in which online teachers would be licensed to teach in multiple states if they meet both of the following requirements:

  • Demonstrate that they are licensed and highly qualified in any state, and
  • Demonstrate expertise in teaching online via either of two methods:
    • They have taken and passed a professional development course in teaching online offered by an approved provider, which includes a course specific to teaching in an online environment offered by universities, regional education agencies, or national providers of accredited programs; or
    • They have successfully taught in an accredited online program for at least three years.

Oklahoma has recently enacted legislation that addresses this issue. The bill allows a teacher with a teaching certificate from another state to get a comparable Oklahoma teaching certificate if the individual has 5 years of successful teaching experience at an accredited school:

“The Board shall issue a certificate to teach to a person who holds a valid out-of-state certificate. The certificate to teach shall only be for those subject areas and grade levels most closely aligned to the subject areas and grade levels recognized on the out-of-state certificate…A person who has five (5) years of successful teaching experience as a certified teacher in an accredited school shall not be required to take any competency examinations in those subject areas and grade levels most closely aligned to the subject areas and grade levels recognized on the out-of-state certificate.”

Although it doesn’t appear that the impetus was online teachers and schools—it was more likely simply meant to enable teachers to easily move from another state and teach in Oklahoma schools—the provisions appear to apply to online teachers.