Continuing Education for Teachers – Part I

Becoming a teacher in the U.S. is not as easy as many might think. It takes years of study, plenty of practice teaching, and passing a litany of tests before being put in charge of a classroom. Once a teacher has gained years of experience, they are required to maintain their teaching license through various levels and types of continuing education.

Each state has unique requirements for teachers, with most states requiring people pursuing a career in education to:

  • Earn a bachelor’s degree through an accredited teacher preparation program
  • Have both a major and a minor in approved subject areas
  • Take educational theory and practice classes at the college level
  • Complete student assisting and student teaching rotations
  • Work closely with mentors within the Education Department and from local school districts
  • Pass state licensing exams

After these requirements are met, and a student is first awarded their provisional teaching license, states require teachers to complete professional development courses every couple of years to maintain their professional teaching certification.

To better understand what’s expected of teachers around the country, it’s best to compare and contrast the requirements from different states.

In Alabama, for example, experienced teachers must meet one of the following requirements every five years to renew their teaching license:

  • 3 years of full-time teaching and 50 hours of professional development
  • 3 years of full-time teaching and 3 credit hours
  • 50 hours of professional development and 3 credit hours
  • 6 credit hours
  • Licensure from the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards

There is also a one-time option that allows teachers in the State of Alabama to renew their license without meeting any of the additional requirements as outlined above.

In Hawaii, teachers are required to prove that they’ve had one successful year teaching in a P-12 setting, either in Hawaii or another state, within the last five years.  They must demonstrate their mastery of the Hawaii Teacher Standards Board approved performance standards.

And, in South Carolina, teachers looking to renew their teaching license must have an equivalent of 120 renewal credits including those needed for the Read to Succeed Endorsement and the Jason Flatt Act suicide awareness training.

By looking at just three of the fifty states in the country, it’s clear that each state requires different levels and types of professional development for teaching certificate renewals. Teachers are certified by the state where they teach, so relocating to another state will result in additional accreditation and professional development.  This is required even after obtaining graduate degrees and gaining years of experience in the classroom.

While reciprocity agreements are in place in most states in the country, only eight states offer full teaching licenses to certified teachers from other states without any additional requirements having to be met. Conversely, thirty-one states require out-of-state teachers to take additional coursework and complete additional training while forty-three states require passing assessments in order to teach within their state.