Recruit and Retain: The Future of Education

Teacher Certification in Rhode Island

Rhode Island teachers receive their initial certification after meeting education and training requirements and completing a two-step assessment process.

Typically, first-time certification is issued on the basis of completion of an approved program. It can be issued on the basis of credential review. The Rhode Island Department of Education conducts credential reviews for only a limited number of less common teaching certification areas, though there are also options to pursue credential review through an authorized educational institution and create a customized plan to meet unmet certification requirements (

Reciprocity is granted on the basis of comparable credentials held in other states or on the basis of having completed a comparable program in the relatively recent past (prior five years).

Teaching is a bachelor’s level profession, though secondary level career and technical education teachers may receive preliminary certificates without having completed a bachelor’s. Even in these areas, standard licensure requires a bachelor’s. In other teaching areas, a bachelor’s is required for a preliminary certificate.

Rhode Island has a tiered system. An educator receives initial certification by meeting basic requirements. Successful experience brings a teacher up to the professional level. The statewide evaluation system is key to moving up the ranks. The highest tier depends on additional experience and on having a number of rankings at the highly effective level.

Teacher Preparation Programs

A teacher begins by pursuing a certification program in early childhood, elementary, or middle grades education or in a specialized secondary or all-grades certification area. The Rhode Island early childhood credential is for grades PK-2; elementary, for grades 1-6. Middle grades certificates are issued for grades 5-8. Secondary certification areas are for grades 7-12. Rhode Island issues the following secondary credentials: general science, physics, biology, social studies, agriculture education, business education, English, mathematics, and world languages.

The following are available as all grades certifications: art, dance, theater, health, physical education, family and consumer sciences, library/ media, world languages, and music.

In the case of secondary and all grades certifications, pedagogy and subject-specific content can be seen as relatively distinct. Among the requirements for initial credentialing is a major in the subject or in another subject judged closely related.

Middle grades certifications are available in math, science, social studies, language arts, and world languages. They may be stand-alone or issued as extensions of an elementary or secondary certificate. There are different requirements for teachers who want the middle grade certificate, dependent on whether their current credential is at the elementary level or secondary level.

Special education, English as a second language, and bilingual/ dual language credentials are add-on.

The Rhode Island Department of Education has provided a list of approved educator preparation programs (

Academic programs include at least 12 semester hours of student teaching. This builds on at least 60 hours of prior field experience.

There are some cases where individuals will have a teaching experience as opposed to a student teaching experience. A teacher can achieve certification eligibility after a year of employment (provided other certification requirements are met).

Rhode Island issues multiple types of preliminary certificate that allow a person to become teacher of record before meeting all requirements at the initial level.

Alternative preliminary certificates are designed to meet demand in high need districts and high need certification areas. An individual must already hold a bachelor's. He or she must hold a degree in a related field if seeking certification in a secondary field. Candidates will need a minimum 3.0 in undergraduate or graduate studies. They will receive at least five weeks of intensive training at the onset. The individual may become teacher of record while continuing to meet full certification. Alternate programs must be state-approved.

Expert residency allows placement of degree holders who demonstrate proficiency in the subject matter. They must enroll in preparation programs and must continue to take coursework toward certification in order to renew. RIDE has provided specific requirements for differing teaching areas. Testing is required at the onset. In some cases, an individual will need to have completed some pedagogical coursework. In some cases, individuals seeking preliminary credentialing are already certificated in Rhode Island but are seeking to teach in new areas.

RIDE has provide a general outline of certification pathways (

Assessment Requirements

Rhode Island mandates pedagogy and subject area assessments ( The state has adopted Praxis tests. Secondary candidates take the Principles of Teaching and Learning exam at the grades 7-12 level. All grades teachers take the Principles of Teaching and Learning at either the K-6 or 7-12 level.

Early childhood candidates have two options. They may take Early Childhood Education and Education of Young Children or the Elementary Principles of Teaching and Learning and Multiple Subjects exams.

The assessment process for special education teachers will vary according to teaching area. Some take several assessments. Teachers of blind and visually impaired students, for example, take a test in teaching the specific population group, as well as an assessment of Braille and a pedagogy test at the K-6 or 7-12 level.

The Application Process

Rhode Island has an online eCERT system. Many items are still submitted by traditional mail. Required documents, including initial application forms, can be found on the RIDE website (

The licensing authority will need transcripts and test results. Out-of-state applicants will include copies of certifications. The licensing authority will look for program verification that includes content and grade age (

The applicant will provide a statement from employer (if applicable). There is a form for this purpose.

The fee is currently $200 for most certificates. Some preliminary credentials carry a fee of just $100.

Additional Information

Information is available from the Rhode Island Department of Education (

The Office of Educator Excellence and Certification Services can be reached at 401-222-8893.