ESSA: Changes in Certification for Special Ed Teachers
As noted in our previous blog New Education Legislation: Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), the Every Student Succeeds Act reauthorized the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965. It was also noted in the blog post, that this new act would bring changes, and changes have already begun in the State of Maine.
On May 16th, the Maine Department of Education sent out a Priority Notice to inform Maine school administrators of amendments to the Individuals with Disabilities Act (IDEA) which deals primarily with special education.
The Priority Notice
Requirement 34 CFR Section 602(10)(B) mandated that a person employed as a special education teacher in elementary school, middle school, or secondary school must have obtained full certification as a special education teacher.
The teacher must not be working under certification or licensure requirements that are waived on an emergency, temporary, or provisional basis. – Maine Department of Education 2016
What does this mean for Maine educators?
Maine will no longer employ special education teachers who are not fully credentialed as of July 1, 2017 (see State of Maine certification requirements).
This is a strong shift in policy for Maine and could leave some schools scrambling to get their staff properly credentialed by the deadline, as conditional licensing has played a role in many districts that are challenged with recruitment issues.
In fact, Maine has more than one category of conditional certification and these certifications have allowed special education paraprofessionals to serve as teachers as they work on full certification. Eliminating the ability to utilize these types of certifications not only puts schools at a disadvantage, but some paraprofessionals many not meet the July 2017 deadline causing them to lose their current positions.
Conditional certification categories
Maine has more than one category of conditional certification. 05-07 Chapter 13 Maine Department of Education states:
- “Conditional Certification” is a one-year certificate issued to teachers, educational specialists, and administrators who have not met all of the requirements for an initial certificate or endorsement.
- “Targeted Need Certificate” is a one-year certificate issued to teachers and educational specialists who are employed in a shortage area and are not eligible for another certificate.
- “Transitional Endorsement” is an endorsement issued to a certified teacher who does not meet all of the requirements for the endorsement in the position they currently hold.
These conditional certifications have allowed special education technicians or paraprofessionals to serve as teachers as they work on full certification. Eliminating the ability to utilize these types of certifications not only puts schools at a disadvantage, but some paraprofessionals may not meet the July 2017 deadline and may lose their positions.
ESSA website resource
In an effort to help educate the public as well as those working in the field about all of the changes, the Maine Department of Education has created a new website to specifically address ESSA: www.maine.gov/doe/essa/
On this website, there is a survey asking for public opinion on certain topics such as:
- Whether priority should be on educator licensure or graduation rates
- Should we be supporting the lowest performing schools or looking at a district as a whole in terms of need for support
- How big of an emphasis should be placed on College and Career Readiness Standards, Career and Technical Education (CTE), and career planning in the K-12 environment
Add your opinion
If you are reading this post, your opinion is valuable and you are encouraged to take the survey yourself. We may need to change the way we operate in terms of our educational system, and having a say in how those changes will occur is powerful.
As our State makes these shifts to align with ESSA, it is important to understand the implications, as these changes will no doubt affect our educators, administrators, parents, and students.
Stay tuned: ESSA and assessments
In our next blog, we will discuss how ESSA will change the way we use assessments for our teachers and to measure student outcomes.