From the Field

Research Notes: Pandemic-Era Emergency Licenses Diversified the Massachusetts Teacher Corps

The COVID-19 pandemic brought unprecedented challenges in education, including challenges completing traditional pre-service requirements to become a licensed teacher. In response, Massachusetts implemented emergency teaching licenses to alleviate potential teacher shortages.

A recent study, conducted by a team from Boston University, investigated the impact of these emergency licenses on the diversity and capacity of the teacher workforce. It found that most emergency license holders were more ethnically and racially diverse compared to traditional licensees, and that they were planning to stay in the profession. Over 80 percent of the emergency-licensed teachers expressed strong intentions to continue teaching and to obtain a traditional license.

Using a mixed methods approach, the researchers analyzed administrative data on 8,870 individuals holding emergency licenses, gathered 1,444 survey responses, and conducted interviews and focus groups with 31 participants. The research aimed to explore the characteristics, employment outcomes, and future intentions of those holding emergency teaching licenses.

The study showed that emergency licenses increased the number of licensed teachers by 13 percent in one year. Nearly half of newly-licensed teachers that year held emergency licenses. These emergency licenses significantly increased ethnic and racial diversity among teachers, with a higher percentage of Black and Hispanic educators holding emergency licenses compared to those with traditional licenses​​. The findings suggest that loosening licensure requirements can diversify the teaching workforce, potentially impacting student outcomes positively. However, the long-term effectiveness and retention of teachers holding emergency licenses remains to be seen, particularly as they transition to traditional licensure.

The research highlights the role of emergency teaching licenses in expanding and diversifying the teacher workforce during the pandemic. However, it calls for further research to assess the long-term impacts of such policy changes on teacher effectiveness and workforce stability, especially further inquiry into how these emergency measures impact teacher retention and student outcomes over time.

Who becomes a teacher when entry requirements are reduced? An analysis of emergency licenses in Massachusetts

Andrew Bacher-Hicks, Olivia L. Chi, Ariel Tichnor-Wagner, and Sidrah Baloch

October 2023