Full certification for special education teachers under ESSA

The purpose of this notice is to address the issue of full certification for special education teachers under the Every Student Succeeds Act.

The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) reauthorized the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 and amended some provisions of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) to reflect changes made by ESSA. The amendments to the IDEA related to personnel qualifications impact Maine schools in significant ways.

The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) amended IDEA by reinstating a pre-NCLB requirement. That 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.

In their respective applications for IDEA Part B (Local Entitlement) funds, states were required to assure that for the 2016-17 school year, in accordance with section 612(a)(14)(C), that any public elementary or secondary school special education teacher has obtained full certification. Maine was not able to give that assurance because of our use of conditional, targeted needs, transitional and waived certificates.

As a result, Maine was required to submit an assurance that the State will revise policies and procedures no later than June 30, 2017 which will address special education teacher certification to bring us into compliance with the provisions of IDEA.

The Maine Department of Education will move ahead in the next year with the development of statute and/ or rules that eliminate the above mentioned less than fully certified credentials for special education teachers.

We wish to inform Maine school administrators that effective July 1, 2017, you will not be able to employ a special education teacher who is not fully certified. Please encourage your staff to work towards full certification between now and July 1, 2017.

If you have questions, contact Janice E. Breton, Director of Special Services atJanice.breton@maine.gov.