Ed Majors: Letters Of Recommendation & Credential Files

An outdated term for "letters of recommendation" is "credential file". A school district will rarely request a credential file. The one item that distinguishes a credential file is a cover page containing the logo of the university where you graduated (you may find a printable cover below in the "Credential File Information" part of this page, if needed). Do not confuse the word "credentials" with the term "credential file" - credentials are all of the application materials that a school district requires from individual applicants.

Letters of Recommendation / Reference

2-8 Letters of recommendation are required. You are responsible for collecting letters of reference / recommendation. These letters should be typed on organization letterhead.
Process to request letters of recommendation

Your most important letters of recommendation

Your most important letters are from individuals who have seen you teach, tutor, and interact with children and youth - especially in a learning environment. For new teachers, school administrators and counselors, IT IS ESSENTIAL THAT YOU HAVE A LETTER OF RECOMMENDATION FROM YOUR SUPERVISING TEACHER AND YOUR UNIVERSITY SUPERVISOR.

Professional References & Letters of Reference: Professional references are individuals who can comment on your abilities and characteristics specifically as they relate to teaching (TED faculty, cooperating teachers, student teacher supervisor, principals, etc...). Your list of professional references should have updated contact information. Letters of reference are letters from such professional contacts - note that occasionally a school will ask for current contact information for the letters you provide (call the school you are applying to for clarification).

Personal References/Character References: Sometimes personal references are called character references - only provide these references if the school district specifically requests them. You want to ask people who you have interacted with who can say something about your character, demeanor and/or personal characteristics. Most of the time these are not letters but are a list of names and phone numbers provided for employers to contact. Some examples are past supervisors, faculty, people you have volunteered with, Sigma advisor, etc...). They should be different from your professional references in most cases. Your professional references would be good letters of reference to address your teaching skills.

Legislation for letters of recommendation

According to the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act of 1974, you have a right to read your letters of recommendation. This legislation protects the reference writer, and the candidate who is receiving a letter of recommendation. 

Using dated letters of recommendation

If you are an experienced teacher, you may stop using your student teaching references if you wish, but you should have at least one reference from every teaching position you have held since graduation or there will be a question in the minds of future readers about whether or not there was a problem at the school were you have no reference. Always keep the best/strongest reference. Put your most current references on top and the older ones at the bottom. Administrators will read as many as they feel necessary to get a feel for what kind of teacher you are. If they get a good feel from reading your newest 3, they might not bother reading any older ones. If you have fewer than 8 and you have a really strong student teaching reference, by all means, continue to include it in your credential file, but have it at the bottom of your pile of references since it would be the oldest.

Compiling references before graduation

It is helpful to gather references soon after graduation so that individuals who write recommendation letters for you may best remember your accomplishments.

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