Evaluating Emergency Licensure in Massachusetts

Authors: Andrew Bacher-Hicks, Olivia Chi, Ariel Tichnor-Wagner, Sidrah Baloch

Project Summary

Between 2021-2023 researchers with Boston University’s Wheelock Educational Policy Center were contracted by the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) to conduct an evaluation of the emergency license policy, a pandemic-induced change to entry requirements to the profession, on the composition and quality of the workforce in Massachusetts. This research effort spanned multiple years, each with its own scope of inquiry and focus. Click into each time period below for a summary of key findings and additional links to policy reports and working papers.

Year 1: The First Cohort of Emergency License Holders in Massachusetts

Key Findings

  • The emergency license appears to have served as a stop-gap in a pandemic-induced teacher shortage.
  • The emergency license appears to be diversifying the teaching workforce at greater rates than traditional licenses.
  • Emergency-licensed teachers are staying in the workforce at rates similar to other newly licensed teachers and most hope to remain in the profession


Year 2: Early Insights on Emergency Licensure and Workforce Quality in Massachusetts

Note: With small samples and a single year of data, these findings should be considered cautiously. Continued study and analysis are necessary to understand the full effects of ELHs in classrooms and the long-term impact of the emergency license policy on the quality and composition of the Massachusetts workforce at large.


Early Insights

  • Hiring: Emergency-licensed teachers are filling a need in Massachusetts schools, especially in shortage areas.
  • Quality: Emergency-licensed teachers are performing similarly to other newly hired teachers.
  • Retention: Emergency-licensed teachers want to stay, and school leaders want to keep them, but they face challenges in doing so.
  • This is likely a unique cohort of individuals employed under the emergency license:

    Evidence from this two-year study of the emergency license in Massachusetts suggests that individuals who received an emergency license and were employed during this 2021–2023 period may be especially unique. That is, the characteristics and effectiveness of these emergency-licensed teachers may not necessarily be replicated in future cohorts if elements of the policy were to continue. For instance, the first-year analysis of the policy indicates that many ELHs were already engaged in the broader educator workforce (e.g., as paraprofessionals, long-term substitutes, teaching on waivers) and/or had previously attempted licensure requirements in some form. This may mean that the swell of individuals entering the teacher workforce under the emergency license provision were “waiting in the wings,” and future cohorts of entering teachers could be quite distinct with respect to prior experience and effectiveness in the classroom.