Reconsidering Teacher Recertification in Maryland

May 2021 / Abell Reports / Education
An apple sits on top of a stack of books in an empty classroom.
The teacher recertification process costs significant time and money for individual teachers and the broader public. This Abell Report lays out the process involved, describes the lack of clear outcomes, and asks if there's a better way.

Every five years, all public school educators in Maryland are required to renew their licenses to teach. This process is meant to ensure that teachers maintain competent practice and engage in career-long learning, development, and growth. However, the current process is cumbersome, unfocused, and largely disconnected from best practice around professional development and other systems with which teachers interact, such as evaluation and compensation.

While Maryland’s recertification system falls short in meeting its objectives, districts throughout the state are investing at least $52.8 million each year in professional development activities.  Accounting for the time teachers and other school staff invest in professional learning and development and the direct costs borne by districts, Maryland is likely spending between $86.28 million and $1.08 billion on professional development annually.

Given the ambiguous relationship between licensure renewal and teacher effectiveness in the classroom—and that it is largely a publicly funded effort, unlike many other regulated, licensed professions—recertification in the state warrants a reexamination.

In “Reconsidering Teacher Recertification in Maryland,” author Mark Procopio examines the current system for recertification and questions Maryland’s overreliance on state-approved professional development trainings or graduate-level coursework despite research largely not bearing out the impact and value of these trainings and degrees on teacher effectiveness. Moreover, on the job training and development, which educators most value, are largely not eligible towards recertification requirements.

In the absence of demonstrable evidence that this system is working, the report finds that the state should remove or minimize the compliance requirements related to recertification. To achieve the goal of ensuring recertification encourages continued, effective teacher development resulting in stronger instructional practice and student outcomes, the report offers the following recommendations:

  1. Create clear, demonstrable, achievable goals for recertification. If it is meant to remain a high-stakes compliance process, streamline. If it is meant to drive teacher growth and effectiveness, clearly define teacher development.
  2. Use data to evaluate outcomes and inform professional development offerings that better meet individual teacher’s needs.  
  3. Align licensure advancement and teacher development to effectiveness and growth. Maryland needs to update its renewal qualifications and licensure advancement to require demonstration of impact on practice and student learning, or demonstrations of knowledge and skills aligned with performance and curriculum or instructional standards.
  4. Ensure professional development incorporates evidence-based practices. Maryland should stop prioritizing the accumulation of time-based credits accrued through formal collegiate coursework or other traditional professional development experiences.
  5. Shift the landscape of professional development offerings. Maryland should inventory and evaluate current development efforts in schools, districts, and at accredited institutions of higher learning.
  6. Eliminate redundancy between systems. Maryland could link teacher evaluation, professional development, and licensure systems, making the entire process more meaningful and tied to teacher effectiveness.
  7. Implement the Blueprint for Maryland’s Future. Part of this legislation calls for increased rigor and standards for teacher preparation programs as well as the creation of a career ladder that not only attracts candidates to the profession, but also entices them to remain in the classroom by providing salary increases for those who meet performance benchmarks.