USA TODAY has compiled a state-by-state listing of resources to use to review teacher backgrounds.
The review by USA TODAY journalists revealed examples of teachers with documented misconduct in one state securing licenses, and jobs, in other states. As part of the investigation, USA TODAY surveyed each state about its practices and then audited what the state said it aspires to do in teacher backgrounding against reality.
The state of Vermont received perfect marks for conducting comprehensive background checks at the state level as part of its licensing process, checking teachers’ work histories against a nationwide database of disciplined teachers and having in place mandatory reporting laws designed to make sure misconduct is reported by teachers, schools and districts up the chain to state regulators or law enforcement.
Florida earned a C rating, earning 75 points out of a possible 100. Florida got the strongest marks for transparency because the state shares detailed information online about teacher disciplinary actions. The state also was considered strong because of its mandatory reporting laws designed to make sure misconduct is reported by teachers, schools and districts up the chain to state regulators or law enforcement.
However, there were two issues that weighed down Florida’s overall grade. First, state law allows background checks to be conducted either at the state or local school district level, rather than uniformly requiring state-level checks. The state got partial points in the background check area for its pledge that it does check teachers seeking to work in Florida against a national database of teacher discipline for past issues.
The other area in which Florida struggled is in reporting every case of its own teachers’ documented misconduct to that nationwide discipline database.
New Mexico earned a grade of “F” grade in the investigation, which found that the way the state vets teachers and reports ethics violations to a national database. screening system needs improvement, lacks transparency in terms of teachers who have been disciplined, and frequently fails to share information about teachers’ misconduct with other states. New Mexico is one of 12 states that received the lowest possible grade.
The New Mexico Public Education Department failed to report about 120 teachers whose licenses were suspended or revoked to the National Association of State Directors of Teacher Education of State Directors of Teacher Education and Certification — which maintains only nationwide database tracking teacher licensure. NASDTEC is a nonprofit organization; no federal entity tracks the licensure or revocation of educators and school administrators. Those failures have occurred despite department policies and regulations.