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Advocates Push for Common Teaching Certificates for Moving Spouses

Military spouses who teach would find PCS moves less stressful under a proposal to make it easier to get certification in all states. Amy Newcomb/Army
Military spouses who teach would find PCS moves less stressful under a proposal to make it easier to get certification in all states. Amy Newcomb/Army

Military spouses who teach might find PCS moves less stressful if states participated in a common application for licensure, an education policy adviser for a Washington, D.C., think tank said Tuesday during a conference on credentialing transitioning military personnel and spouses.

Tamar Hiler of The Third Way said the group has been working with Republicans and Democrats to come up with legislation that would enable states to opt into such a system.

"We have 50 states, but there are over 600 different licensure tests that teachers are expected to take, depending on whatever state you're in," Hiler said.

Military spouses who teach often face career interruptions when they relocate because of permanent change-of-station moves.

"There is no way to have apples-to-apples" comparison now, Hiller said during a credentialing summit sponsored by The American Legion in Washington.

The Military Officers Association of America said last year that more than 50 percent of spouses who responded to a survey it conducted indicated being in a career field that required licensing or certification. Of the respondents, more than 72 percent said the certificate or license had to be renewed or reissued following a PCS move.

The No Child Left Behind law first signed into law by President George W. Bush in 2001 is coming up for reauthorization, and Hiler said Third Way has bipartisan support to draft a provision for what she calls an Interstate Teaching Application.

Hiler likened it to the common college application that college-bound high school graduates fill out, and which are recognized and used by universities and colleges across the country.

"We think there is room for something similar to that," Hiler said.

The proposal envisions participating states adopting licensure standards they all agree on. It would not be mandatory, she said, and the federal government's only role would be to fund and set up the infrastructure.

Emily Feistritzer, a career teacher and president of Teach-NOW, said states already are cooperating more when it comes to reciprocating on certification because there is a demand for teachers.

"If you get a certificate for D.C., California will recognize it. And you don't have to test for it," she said. "In the last four to five years, the degree to which states are recognizing [what ] each other are doing, without actually doing the same thing, is astronomical."

Teach-NOW is an online teacher preparation program that also assists teachers or those who want to become teachers -- including service members and spouses -- to gain certification in any of the states.

The nine-month program is geared for people who already have a bachelor's degree, but the degree does not have to be in teaching or education. It's open to anyone, though service members and spouses get a discount, paying $5,000 instead of $6,000.

Arizona and the District of Columbia have accredited Teach-NOW as an approved licensure program, and Feistritzer said troops deployed to more than 30 countries are taking the program. These troops will first be licensed for the District, she said, "and then we [Teach-NOW] assume the responsibility for making sure that that D.C. certificate gets recognized" in the other states.

-- Bryant Jordan can be reached at bryant.jordan@military.com.

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