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The Massachusetts Board of Elementary and Secondary Education

Educator Licensure - Overview and Update

Members of the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education
Mitchell D. Chester, Ed.D., Commissioner
March 13, 2015


Educator effectiveness is one of the four core priorities of the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education: Massachusetts will improve the effectiveness of all its educators by improving educator preparation programs, setting high standards for entry and persistence in a diverse workforce, and promoting a system of continuous improvement and development. Educator licensure policies and educator assessment policies are critical components to meet this ambitious goal. At the special meeting of the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education on March 23, 2015, Department staff and I will describe the work we are doing on educator licensure, educator assessment, and school leadership preparation.

Licensure Overview

In order to be eligible for employment in Massachusetts public schools, educators (including teachers, support personnel, and administrators) are required to hold a license issued by the Commissioner of Elementary and Secondary Education, under standards set forth in statute (Mass. Gen. Laws chapter 71, sec. 38G) and further detailed in regulations adopted by the Board. The Department's Office of Educator Licensure carries out the licensing function. A license certifies that an educator has addressed all degree, coursework, licensure tests, performance assessments, experience, and sound moral character requirements to support the success of all students.

Massachusetts licenses four categories of academic/PreK-12 educators:

  • Teacher
  • Specialist Teacher
  • Professional Support Personnel
  • Administrator

Each of these categories is further broken down into fields - the discipline or subject matter knowledge of the license (e.g., mathematics). Each category and field also has a grade level associated with it. There are several possible grade-level combinations, including, but not limited to: all levels, preK-8, and 8-12. Attachment 1: Data on Licensure presents data on recent trends in licensure and profiles of Massachusetts educators licensed in each category.

Massachusetts issues four types of educator licenses:

  1. Temporary License
    • Valid for one calendar year
    • Cannot be extended or renewed
    The Temporary License is appropriate for an experienced teacher from out-of-state who:
    • Has been employed in another state under a valid license or certificate comparable to a Massachusetts initial license for at least three (3) years
    • Has not yet passed all of the required MTEL tests

  2. Preliminary License
    • Valid for five years of employment
    • Cannot be extended or renewed
    The Preliminary License is appropriate for a person who:
    • Has a bachelor's degree
    • Has passed all required MTEL tests
      • For licenses that do not have a subject matter knowledge MTEL (e.g., moderate special needs, instructional technology, etc.), complete a competency review
    • Seeks a license as a core academic teacher and does not yet hold the SEI endorsement

  3. Initial License
    • Valid for five years of employment
    • Can be extended once, for an additional five years
    The Initial License is appropriate for a person who:
    • Has a bachelor's degree
    • Has passed all required MTEL tests
    • Holds the SEI endorsement (core academic teacher, principal/assistant principal, or supervisor/director only)
    • Has completed an approved educator preparation program
    • Is an out-of-state applicant who holds a valid/comparable license from another state and either:
      • Has completed three years of employment out of the last seven years under the valid license from that state/jurisdiction, or
      • Has completed an approved educator preparation program, or
      • Possesses a regional credential applicable to the license sought, or
      • Has completed an educator preparation program comparable to the license sought, sponsored by a college or university outside of Massachusetts that has been accredited by CAEP, TEAC, or NCATE

  4. Professional License
    • Valid for five calendar years
    • Renewable every five years thereafter
    The Professional License is appropriate for a person who:
    • Holds an Initial license in the same field as the Professional license sought;
    • Has been employed under the Initial license for at least three years and completed an induction and mentoring program
    • Either:
      • Holds a master's/advanced degree in academic discipline appropriate to the license sought, or
      • Has completed an approved program for the professional license sought, or
      • Has completed a program leading to eligibility for master teacher status (NBPTS), or
      • Has completed a master's/advanced degree and has at least 12 graduate credits in the subject matter knowledge or content based pedagogy.

A vast majority of the Commonwealth's educators enter the profession by completing an approved educator preparation program. Recent data indicates that more candidates are completing graduate preparation programs as opposed to undergraduate programs. Many educators may enter teaching via a preliminary license, and this is especially true in the middle school and high school grade levels. "Attachment 1 Data on Licensure" provides you with additional data related to entry to licensure and employment. Overall, the Department offers teaching licenses in 34 different fields, five different administrator licenses, and four professional support licenses in eight different grade level combinations.

Massachusetts Tests for Educator Licensure (MTEL)

The licensure of educators is the primary means by which each state ensures that teachers and administrators meet a threshold of knowledge, skills, and abilities before they assume the responsibilities of their role. In 2011, 48 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, Guam, Northern Mariana Islands, and Virgin Islands reported assessing initial teacher candidates through state testing (see figure 6.1). The Massachusetts Tests for Educator Licensure (MTEL) are intended to determine if licensure candidates possess the reading and writing skills and knowledge of subject matter for the license they are seeking. The MTEL program was implemented in 1998 as part of the state's education reform initiative, Massachusetts General Laws c. 71, § 38G; the law requires all candidates to pass a two-part test (communication and literacy skills and subject matter knowledge) to be eligible for a license.

There are 40 tests in the MTEL Program, including: Communication and Literacy Skills, Vocational Technical Literacy Skills, and 38 subject tests. The tests are designed to be aligned with the subject matter content outlined in the state's educator licensure regulations, 603 CMR 7.00, and with the student learning standards in the curriculum frameworks, where available. MTEL tests are developed and updated as determined by the Department and validated with input from Massachusetts public school educators and higher education faculty who participate at every stage of test development by serving on content and bias review committees, responding to surveys, participating in pilot testing, and providing input for setting the passing scores.

The Department has a no-cost contract (2011-2016) with the testing company, Evaluation Systems (ES) group of Pearson, which includes ongoing work related to test development, test registration, administration, scoring, and customer service. To ensure compliance with technical and professional standards, the Department consults with the Technical Advisory Committee for MTEL, which is a committee of assessment experts.

MTEL is in its final stages of transitioning from paper-based testing to all computer-based testing by September 2015. The computer-based tests are administered six days per week at Pearson VUE testing centers across Massachusetts, the United States and worldwide. The MTEL Program website provides access to a wide-range of information including practice tests and other no-cost test preparation materials as well as registration, administration, and scoring information. In addition, the Department's MTEL web pages provide a list of test preparation courses, passing rates, and technical information.

Performance Assessment for Leaders (PAL)

Since 2011, the Department has been working with Bank Street College of Education's team of school leadership and performance assessment experts, as well as representatives from preparation pathways and K-12 education, to design and develop a pre-service performance-based assessment system as one component of principal preparation and licensure. Starting in fall 2015, candidates for a principal license will have to pass the Performance Assessment for Leaders (PAL). The PAL program is intended to promote effective preparation for all principals and strengthen the connection between preparation and practice. At each step of this multi-year project, we have engaged the field in the development of the PAL, including a pilot and the recent field testing. This project is part of our initiative to support educator development across the career continuum and is the first of its kind in the nation.

PAL is aligned to the Professional Standards for Administrative Leadership (603 CMR 7.10), which the Board adopted in December 2011, and the associated indicators contained in the Guidelines for the Preparation of Administrative Leaders Download PDF Document  Download Word Document. The Professional Standards for Administrative Leadership are identical to the four Standards of Effective Administrative Leadership Practice in the Educator Evaluation Regulations that the Board adopted in June 2011, thereby connecting preparation standards to the standards that administrators are held to in the field.

Unlike standard paper and pencil tests, PAL will include performance assessment tasks that more closely reflect the authentic work of school leaders, aligned to state indicators, and can be completed as part of the preparation pathway. Currently, all 29 Massachusetts leadership preparation programs have candidates who are enrolled in the PAL assessment system, as are other candidates who are pursuing licensure through the Commonwealth's Administrative Apprenticeship/Internship and Panel Review pathways. Over 600 candidates have enrolled with the intention of completing PAL on or before May 15, 2015 when the Field Trial ends.

Heather Peske, Associate Commissioner for Educator Effectiveness; Brian Devine, Director of Educator Licensure; Liz Losee, Assistant Director for Educator Effectiveness; and Judy Sohn-White, MTEL Coordinator, will be at the meeting to assist in presenting this update and respond to your questions.


Download PDF Document  Download Word Document
Data on Educator Licenses in Massachusetts
MTEL Annual Summary of Candidate Passing Rates by Test: Cumulative For All Candidates and by Gender, Ethnicity, and Primary Language for Program Year: September 2013 - August 2014 (by test Download PDF Document  Download Word Document and combined Download PDF Document  Download Word Document)

Last Updated: March 16, 2015
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