Indiana has been tweaking its teacher licensure policies for years, but recent concerns over teacher shortages have prompted lawmakers to get more involved in pushing to create a larger teacher pool.
Controversial policies paring down licensure requirements have spawned debates about how to balance a teacher’s education and preparation with a school’s need to fill jobs. State legislators and policymakers have argued for years now that relaxed rules will encourage more people to become teachers — but the data shows that so far, relatively few are taking advantage of those opportunities.
In Indiana and across the country, schools have had trouble filling teaching roles, particularly in math, science, and special education — though there’s been debate about exactly where shortages exist and whether they’ve gotten worse over time. Although more licenses have been issued since a dip in 2015, some districts, especially ones that are urban and rural, have still reported challenges.
This year lawmakers considered a bill that would have let districts have up to 10 percent of their teachers be unlicensed. The testing, paperwork and expense associated with licenses was keeping qualified applicants out of the classroom, they said, a view shared by state Superintendent Jennifer McCormick. Ultimately, after backlash from some educators and teachers unions — and a lot of back and forth — the bill was cut back significantly, and provisions regarding unlicensed teachers were removed. A simpler version of the bill passed.
At the time, the bill’s author said the state already had sufficient avenues for becoming a teacher, and he didn’t want to complicate it further.
Indeed, Indiana has at least nine different kinds of teacher licenses and permits and several pathways would-be teachers can take to get them. Teachers can complete in-state or out-of-state university-based preparatory programs as the basis for their license, or they can earn them through graduate studies or alternative programs, such as Teach for America or Woodrow Wilson Teaching Fellows. For some licenses, no higher education is required.
We break down license options below, as well as with data on how many teachers in the state use them (Note: one teacher can hold multiple licenses).
Traditional teacher license
A full state teaching license is also known as a professional educator’s license, standard license, first grade license, permanent license, professional license, or provisional license, depending on the year it was issued.
This type of license makes up more than 95 percent of all 182,751 licenses issued to teachers currently employed in the state. It can be obtained through traditional and alternative teacher prep programs both inside and outside of Indiana (some short-term licenses convert to these). Depending on when the license was earned, it can be valid for two, five, or 10 years at a time, and some are considered “life” licenses.
For new teachers, these are called “initial practitioner licenses,” and they are valid for two years, after which they can be converted to a five-year “practitioner” license if the teacher has completed 40 hours of professional development. After completing a master’s degree, it can be converted to a 10-year license, known as an “accomplished practitioner license.”
Number of these licenses issued to currently employed teachers: 175,299
- Complete an accredited teacher preparation program or convert a short-term license from alternative teacher prep programs or transition to teach programs.
- Pass specific subject exams.
Transition to teaching permit
This three-year, non-renewable permit is granted to teachers who are completing a transitional program but are hired by a school or district before they finish. Eventually, this permit can transition to a traditional license.
Number of these licenses issued to currently employed teachers: 641
- A bachelor’s degree in the subject to be taught and a passing score on an exam for the content area to be taught.
Charter school license
This license can be used by teachers hired in a charter school. Because of a recent change to state law, teachers with this license count toward a school’s 90 percent licensed educator requirement. Previously, only up to 10 percent of a charter school’s teachers could use this license.
Number of these licenses issued to currently employed teachers: 146
- A bachelor’s degree in the subject to be taught, from an accredited college or university, with an overall GPA of 3.0 or higher.
- Or, a bachelor’s degree from an accredited college or university and a passing score on an exam for the content area to be taught.
Career specialist permit
This credential is valid for two years and is intended for a person who wants to switch careers and become a teacher in a specific subject. To renew, the teacher must receive additional education in how children learn, provided by an employer, a college or an entity approved by the Indiana State Board of Education. This can never be converted to a full teaching license.
Number of these licenses issued to currently employed teachers: 18
- A bachelor’s degree in the subject to be taught with at least a 3.0 GPA; passing scores content area exams; and 6,000 hours of verified work experience over the five preceding years related to the subject to be taught.
- Or, a bachelor’s degree in the subject to be taught with at least a 3.0 GPA and 10,000 hours of verified work experience over the seven preceding years related to the subject to be taught.
- Or, a passing score on a content area exam and 10,000 hours of verified work experience over the seven preceding years related to the subject to be taught.
Workplace specialist license
This credential can be earned by a person with experience in skilled trades or areas relevant to classes in a career center or a high school career and technical education program. These have also been known as “occupational specialist permits.” These licenses do not require a college degree.
Number of these licenses issued to currently employed teachers: 1,120
Short-term or specialized permits
Reciprocal permit: This permit is for a teacher coming in from outside Indiana who has not completed all the requirements for a full Indiana teachers license. This permit is good for one year until they finish the Indiana requirements. It can convert to a professional educator license. Number of these licenses issued to currently employed teachers: 187
Substitute permit: These are granted to substitute teachers. The only requirement is that they have a high school diploma, though districts can set higher standards if they choose. It is valid for three years. Number of these licenses issued to currently employed teachers: 2,703
Visiting teacher permit: Schools can request this permit for a teacher coming in from another country. That teacher must have a degree and a teaching credential from their home country, and an Indiana school must vouch for them to approve their application. This is a three-year permit that is not renewable. These are frequently used for teachers hired to teach other languages. Number of these licenses issued to currently employed teachers: 5
Emergency permit: Schools and districts can request these permits when they are struggling to hire. Teachers using these must have a bachelor’s degree. They are good for one year, and can be renewed if the teacher is pursuing a full license. Number of these licenses issued to currently employed teachers: 2,566