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“Highly Qualified” Certification Questions and Answers Under the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA)

The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) eliminated the Highly Qualified Teacher (HQT) requirements beginning with the 2016-17 school year. However, Pennsylvania certification and staffing policies, statutes, and regulations remain in effect, and the Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE) is required to ensure that all teachers and paraprofessionals in schools receiving federal funding fulfill state certification and licensure requirements. Consequently, the data elements that informed HQT calculations, such as course and faculty listings tied to student rosters, will continue to be utilized for both federal and state purposes. Local education agencies (LEAs) must continue reporting PIMS data elements associated with HQT; this will allow PDE to avoid making multiple revisions to data collection requirements in the future. 

This document provides LEAs with guidance that will ensure appropriate staffing assignments are made as a result of the changes made by ESSA. Please contact the Bureau of School Leadership and Teacher Quality if you have additional specific staffing or certification questions.



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Must a State continue to ensure that all core content teachers are "highly qualified," as defined in section 9101 of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESEA) and amended by No Child Left Behind (NCLB)?

If "highly qualified" as defined in NCLB is no longer applicable, what are the certification requirements for teachers in Title I schools?

Must a State continue to ensure that special education teachers are "highly qualified," as defined in section 9101 of the ESEA, as amended by NCLB?

What are the current Pennsylvania requirements for issuance of an Instructional certificate to be certified in Special Education?

What are the Pennsylvania certification requirements for special education teachers of core content?

Are there circumstances where a teacher certified PK-8 in special education is permitted to teach in grades 7-12 or vice versa?

Is the Bridge program still in effect in Pennsylvania?

Is the High Objective Uniform State Standard of Evaluation (HOUSSE) program still in effect in Pennsylvania?

What are the certification requirements for charter school special education staff?

What are the Pennsylvania certification requirements for other professional staff who teach core content subjects in a charter school?

What are the "highly qualified" requirements for special education paraprofessionals under ESSA?

What requirements apply to the hiring of other paraprofessionals to work in a Title I, Part A program?

What are the Pennsylvania state certification requirements for teachers who teach students identified as English Learners (ELs) in English Language Development (ELD)?

Must LEAS continue to report highly qualified data elements?