No Trespassing: Unlicensed Educators Need Not Apply

By Robert J. Harris

April 3, 2017

According to the Labor Policy Institute, the current national teacher shortage is estimated at 64,000 teachers. This shortage is estimated to increase to 112,000 teachers by 2018 (Sutcher, Darling-Hammond, Carver-Thomas, 2016).

Across the United States, overly restrictive teacher licensure regulations stand in the way of public schools hiring some potentially great teachers. In Massachusetts, where I work as an Assistant Superintendent of Schools, one such regulation discourages schools from considering applicants with superior credentials as long as there is a licensed candidate (no matter how qualified) in the applicant pool. As a matter of policy, this is absurd.

Given the fact that, licensure is usually the single-most important qualification for a teaching job in the U.S., one would think there is a substantial body of evidence to support the validity of the requirement to be licensed. Upon further examination, the research findings are quite to the contrary. In a 2006 paper published by the Brookings Institute entitled, “Identifying Effective Teachers Using Performance on the Job,” researchers reported that, “teacher certification (licensure) is a poor predictor of teacher effectiveness,” and that, “there is no statistically significant difference in achievement for students assigned to certified (licensed) and uncertified (unlicensed) teachers.” (Gordon, Kane and Staiger 2006).

So, if licensure doesn’t make a difference, why do state departments of education continue to require one when many school principals and superintendents have opportunities to hire some potentially excellent teachers without one? Given the growing national teacher shortage, now is the time for state policy makers to expand opportunities for new entrants into the teaching profession rather than cling to the unnecessary and outdated requirements that prevent them.

Robert J. Harris (@edudexterous) is an Assistant Superintendent for Human Resources.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Create a website or blog at

Up ↑

%d bloggers like this: