by Dr. Terry Stoops
Director of the Center for Effective Education, John Locke Foundation
One of the provisions in Senate Bill 337: NC Charter School Advisory Board would allow charter schools to employ fewer certified (or licensed) teachers. Currently, at least 75 percent of charter school teachers in grades kindergarten through five must possess a teaching license. At least 50 percent of charter teachers in grades six through 12 must be certified.
Earlier versions of SB 337 lowered the elementary school requirement to 50 percent, but the conference report goes one step further. Conferees lowered the certification requirement to 25 percent for all grade levels.
Some are not pleased with the change, reasoning that easing the requirement will lower the quality of charter school teachers. But this assumes that certification is a reliable indicator of quality. It’s not.
Overall, the case for teacher certification is pretty weak. Although somewhat dated, education researcher Eric Hanushek examined 171 high quality studies dealing with teaching credentials. Only nine of the studies found a significant relationship between the credentials and student performance. Subsequent studies by Hanushek and other researchers confirmed this finding. A handful of studies conclude that the relationship between certification and performance is statistically significant, but the effects tend to be small or limited by experience, academic subject, or other factors.
That is not to say that teacher quality does not matter. It does. Rather, teacher certification is an unreliable indicator of quality, as measured by student outcome measures.
The bottom line is that charter schools should have the freedom to hire the best candidates for their teaching positions, regardless if he or she possesses the right credentials.