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Teacher Qualifications Under ESSA

Federal Requirements

The No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) of 2001 required that teachers in programs supported by Title I, Part A funds be highly qualified.  The qualifications necessary to be considered highly qualified were prescribed by NCLB and included requirements for minimum education, teacher licensure, and subject matter competency.  These requirements in NCLB have been replaced by the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) of 2001.

The ESSA now defers teacher qualification requirements in Title I programs to applicable State law.

Colorado Law

Colorado law (C.R.S 22-63-201) requires that a teacher hold a valid license or authorization before they can be hired to teach in a public school, including a charter school, unless the school or district has received a waiver from this provision.  Waivers are not applicable to Special Education teacher qualification requirements.

Data and Reporting

The Colorado Department of Education (CDE) annually collects data from local education agencies (LEAs) through the Human Resources Data Pipeline Snapshot to ensure compliance with the above described Federal and State requirements.  Percentages of classes taught by teachers who meet these requirements are reported to the United States Department of Education (USDE) in aggregate.  No personally identifiable information is shared with the USDE as a part of this reporting. 

Frequently Asked Questions

  1. Must teachers qualify as ‘in-field’ as defined by Colorado’s ESSA State Plan before they can be hired?
    • No.  While CDE encourages LEAs to prioritize the hiring of teachers who have demonstrated subject matter competency in the subject area they will be assigned to teach, teachers’ status as in- or out-of-field will only be used to monitor and publicly report the rates at which low-income and minority students are being taught by inexperienced, out-of-field, and ineffective teachers.
  2. How is an in-field teacher defined in Colorado?
    • A teacher must hold at least one of the following in the subject area in which they have been assigned to teach in order to be considered in-field:
      • Endorsement on a Colorado teaching license
      • Degree (B.A. or higher)
      • 36 semester credit hours
      • Passing score on a State Board of Education approved content exam (currently the ETS Praxis Series)
  3. The number of semester credit hours required in the definition that was included in the draft ESSA plan was 24.  When did this change?
    • The State Board of Education approved a motion to change 24 semester credit hours to 36 at the March 9 meeting.  The draft plan, which was posted on February 9, had to remain posted for a 30 day period before we could make any changes to the final version. 
  4. Must teachers now have 36 semester credit hours to qualify for a subject area endorsement on their teaching license?
    • No.  The definition of in-field is used only for federal reporting purposes and does not affect Colorado statute or rule related to teacher licensure.  Endorsement requirements are detailed on the Licensing Office site. 
  5. What courses can be counted toward the 36 semester credit hours?
    • LEAs and charter schools should use the endorsement content evaluation worksheets to identify the first 24 credit hours.  CDE recommends that LEAs and charter schools take into account local policies to identify the remaining 12 credit hours that are relevant and applicable to the teaching assignment.
  6. Will teachers who were previously highly qualified through 24 semester credit hours be grandfathered in as in-field?
    • CDE will add the following option to the ‘Demonstrates In-Field Status’ field in the Staff Assignment File:
      • HQ via 24 hours (this option will be available through the 2018-19 school year) 
    • These teachers will be considered in-field through the 2018-19 school year after which they will need to have obtained one of the qualifications listed in the definition of an in-field teacher to be considered in field.
  7. Do the new requirements under the ESSA apply only to core content areas as NCLB did?
    • The requirements for teacher qualifications in section 1112 of the ESSA do not reference core content areas.  The applicable law in Colorado also does not reference specific content areas
  8. Must Title I school principals continue to utilize the principal attestation form?
    • No. This form is no longer required.
  9. How do these changes affect parent notification requirements?
    • Parents’ right to know:  All LEAs receiving Title I funds must notify parents of each student attending a Title I school of their right to request information on their child's teacher's qualifications. This is to be done at the beginning of every school year.  This requirement remains the same under the ESSA.
    • Four-week rule:  Under the NCLB,  if a student was receiving instruction for longer than four weeks by a teacher/substitute teacher who was not highly qualified, a letter informing the students’ parents of this information was required to be sent in a timely manner.  Under the ESSA, a school that receives Title I funds must provide timely notice to the parent of any student who has been assigned, or has been taught for 4 or more consecutive weeks by a teacher who does not meet applicable State certification or licensure requirements at the grade level and subject area in which the teacher has been assigned.
    • CDE provides sample letters that LEAs may edit and use to meet these requirements.
  10. What are the pathways to becoming an educator in Colorado?
    • Visit our website for aspiring educators to find out more about the traditional and alternative pathways to becoming an educator in Colorado.

For Additional Information Contact:

Jeremy Meredith 
ESEA Senior Consultant, Title II

Joey Willett
ESEA Senior Consultant, Title I & Title ID


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