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Recruiting Teachers From Other States: How Common Is It?

According to federal data, some states issue more than half of initial teaching credentials to teachers who are prepared from out of state. 

I stumbled on this fascinating fact on the U.S. Department of Education's Title II site. The site houses state-reported data collected under the Higher Education Act; the most recent comes from the 2012-13 school year. Click here to download the most recent tally.

According to the data, guess which state grants the highest percentage of out-of-state certificates? That would be Wyoming, which reported that 72 percent of initial licenses granted that year were to out-of-state teachers.

Wyoming has just one university that prepares teachers, and apparently an oil boom has made it easier to raise salaries and attract talent from out of state.

Other states where half or more of teachers hail from out of state? Distant Alaska and Hawaii, both of which have had to import talent from many sectors over the years, are on the list. But so are Maryland, Nevada, North Carolina, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Virginia, Washington state, and West Virginia.

Some of those states, like Oklahoma and Nevada, are currently struggling with teacher shortages, so this makes some sense.

A few additional thoughts on this. 

First, as an out-of-state teacher, getting a license can be a difficult process, as recent events in Minnesota have shown. But perhaps Minnesota is an outlier; reciprocity agreements are smoother in other states, one certification expert told my colleague Ross Brenneman late last year. 

Second, this phenomenon is a good reminder that teacher supply and demand issues are really complicated. We've made this point at Education Week before, but the idea of a "teacher shortage" needs to be approached with a lot more specificity.

Some fields, like special education, are in an almost-constant state of shortage, while others, like elementary teaching, are more flush. Regional shortages can pop up even in states with good pipelines, because teachers aren't evenly distributed across communities and geographies. 

There's one caveat to the federal tally: it's not entirely clear how accurate the Title II data is for every state. Alabama, New York, and New Jersey reported issuing not a single certificate to anyone trained out of state, which doesn't on first glance seem correct.

For more on teacher certification:

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