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Bill Aims to Ease Teacher Mobility Across States

Newly introduced federal legislation seeks to ease teachers' ability to move to teach in another state without jumping through lots of licensing hoops. 

The proposal, introduced May 26 by Rep. Andre Carson, D-Ind., would set up an application process for teachers in participating states to move to another without having to meet additional coursework or other requirements. Participating states would have to administer at least one content test before a teacher could begin in the classroom, plus one general pedagogy and one performance-based test within a year after the teacher begins to teach.

The proposal would allow the U.S. Secretary of Education to award grants to "an eligible entity" to set up this process, but that's the extent of the feds' involvement.

One wrinkle: Even when states use the same tests, they often set very different passing or "cutoff" scoressometimes at very low levels. So the bill says that states' tests would have to be "identified as sufficiently rigorous" by a third-party organization like the Council of Chief State School Officers.

The proposal is modeled on the recommendations from a 2014 report from centrist think-tank Third Way.

The issue of teacher-license portability is getting more attention these days for a few reasons. First, a recent dust-up in Minnesota illustrated how difficult it sometimes is for out-of-state teachers, even those with significant experience, to get licenses.

Second, a recent USA Today investigation found instances of teachers found guilty of misconduct in one state who ended up going on to teach in other states. And although that isn't strictly related to licensing, it's reflective of the poor state of inter-state communication about teacher quality.

Finally, regional teacher shortages have made portability an issue. (In fact, some states report issuing more than half of new certificates to out-of-state teachers.)

The new proposal's legislative prospects aren't entirely clear, because the main K-12 law, now known as the Every Student Succeeds Act, was rewritten just last December. But lawmakers could decide to attach this to the Higher Education Act or a budget proposal.

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