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U.S. Department of Education: Promoting Educational Excellence for all Americans

Requirements for highly qualified special education teachers teaching multiple subjects (Sec. 300.18(d))

Comment: A few commenters stated that the requirements for teachers who teach two or more core academic subjects exclusively to children with disabilities are confusing. Some commenters requested additional guidance and flexibility for special education teachers teaching two or more core academic subjects. Other commenters recommended allowing special education teachers more time to become highly qualified in all the core academic subjects they teach.

Discussion: The requirements in Sec. 300.18(d), consistent with section 602(10)(C) of the Act, provide flexibility for teachers who teach multiple core academic subjects exclusively to children with disabilities. Section 300.18(d)(2) and (3) allows teachers who are new and not new in the profession to demonstrate competence in all the core academic subjects in which the teacher teaches using a single, high objective uniform State standard of evaluation (HOUSSE) covering multiple subjects. In addition, Sec. 300.18(d)(3) gives a new special education teacher who teaches multiple subjects, and who is highly qualified in mathematics, language arts, or science at the time of hire, two years after the date of employment to demonstrate competence in the other core academic subjects in which the teacher teaches. We do not believe that further clarification is necessary.

Changes: None.

Comment: One commenter requested clarification regarding the meaning of the following phrases in Sec. 300.18(d): "multiple subjects," "in the same manner," and "all the core academic subjects."

Discussion: "Multiple subjects" refers to two or more core academic subjects. Section 300.18(d) allows teachers who are new or not new to the profession to demonstrate competence in "all the core subjects" in which the teacher teaches "in the same manner" as is required for an elementary, middle, or secondary school teacher under the ESEA. As used in this context, "in the same manner" means that special education teachers teaching multiple subjects can demonstrate competence in the core academic subjects they teach in the same way that is required for elementary, middle, or secondary school teachers in 34 CFR 200.56 of the ESEA regulations. "All the core subjects" refers to the core academic subjects, which include English, reading or language arts, mathematics, science, foreign languages, civics and government, economics, arts, history, and geography, consistent with Sec. 300.10.

Changes: None.

Comment: One commenter recommended ensuring that the requirements in Sec. 300.18(d) apply to special education teachers who teach children with severe disabilities in more than one core subject area.

Discussion: The requirements in Sec. 300.18(d) do not exclude teachers who teach children with severe disabilities in more than one core subject area. Consistent with Sec. 300.18(d) and section 602(10)(D) of the Act, the requirements apply to special education teachers who teach two or more core academic subjects exclusively to children with disabilities, including, but not limited to, children with severe disabilities. We do not believe that further clarification is necessary.

Changes: None.

Comment: A significant number of commenters recommended adding language to the regulations to permit a separate HOUSSE for special education teachers, including a single HOUSSE that covers multiple subjects. Some commenters supported a single HOUSSE covering multiple subjects for special education teachers, as long as those adaptations of a State's HOUSSE for use with special education teachers do not establish lower standards for the content knowledge requirements for special education teachers.

Discussion: States have the option of developing a method by which teachers can demonstrate competency in each subject they teach on the basis of a HOUSSE. Likewise, we believe States should have the option of developing a separate HOUSSE for special education teachers.

States have flexibility in developing their HOUSSE evaluation as long as it meets each of the following criteria established in section 9101(23)(C)(ii) of the ESEA:

Be set by the State for both grade-appropriate academic subject-matter knowledge and teaching skills;

Be aligned with challenging State academic content and student academic achievement standards and developed in consultation with core content specialists, teachers, principals, and school administrators;

Provide objective, coherent information about the teacher's attainment of core content knowledge in the academic subjects in which a teacher teaches;

Be applied uniformly to all teachers in the same academic subject and teaching in the same grade level throughout the State;

Take into consideration, but not be based primarily on, the time the teacher has been teaching in the academic subject; and

Be made available to the public upon request.

The ESEA also permits States, when developing their HOUSSE procedures, to involve multiple, objective measures of teacher competency. Each evaluation should have a high, objective, uniform standard that the candidate is expected to meet or to exceed. These standards for evaluation must be applied to each candidate in the same way.

We believe it is appropriate and consistent with the Act to permit States to develop a separate HOUSSE for special education teachers to demonstrate subject matter competency and to use a single HOUSSE covering multiple subjects, provided that any adaptations to the HOUSSE do not establish a lower standard for the content knowledge requirements for special education teachers and meet all the requirements for a HOUSSE for regular education teachers established in section 9101(23)(C)(ii) of the ESEA.

Changes: We have added a new paragraph (e) to Sec. 300.18 to allow States to develop a separate HOUSSE for special education teachers and to permit the use of a single HOUSSE covering multiple subjects. Subsequent paragraphs have been renumbered.

Comment: A few commenters stated that the HOUSSE should only be used to address the content requirements, not primary certification as a special educator.

Discussion: A HOUSSE is a method by which teachers can demonstrate competency in each subject they teach. A HOUSSE does not address the requirement for full State certification as a special education teacher.

Changes: None.

Comment: Several commenters recommended clarifying the requirements for a HOUSSE, particularly at the high school level. One commenter recommended clarifying the use of a separate HOUSSE for teachers of children with visual impairments.

Discussion: The requirements for a HOUSSE apply to public school elementary, middle, and high school special education teachers. Neither the Act nor the ESEA provides for different HOUSSE procedures at the high school level. Similarly, there are no requirements for separate HOUSSE procedures for teachers who teach children with visual impairments or any other specific type of disability. We do not believe it is necessary or appropriate to establish separate requirements for separate HOUSSE procedures for teachers who teach children with visual impairments or any other specific type of disability. All children with disabilities, regardless of their specific disability, should have teachers with the subject matter knowledge to assist them to achieve to high academic standards.

Changes: None.

Comment: One commenter recommended that States work collaboratively to ensure there is State reciprocity of content area standards for special education teachers, including HOUSSE provisions.

Discussion: It is up to each State to determine when and on what basis to accept another State's determination that a particular teacher is highly qualified. Additionally, each State determines whether to consider a teacher from another State to be both fully certified and competent in each subject area.

Changes: None.

Comment: One commenter requested specific guidance on how to design a multi-subject HOUSSE for special education teachers.

Discussion: The Department's non-regulatory guidance on Improving Teacher Quality State Grants issued on August 3, 2005 (available at http://www.ed.gov/programs/teacherqual/guidance.doc.) provides the following guidance to States when developing their HOUSSE procedures (see question A-10):

Do the HOUSSE procedures provide an "objective" way of determining whether teachers have adequate subject-matter knowledge in each core academic subject they teach?

Is there a strong and compelling rationale for each part of the HOUSSE procedures?

Do the procedures take into account, but not primarily rely on, previous teaching experience?

Does the plan provide solid evidence that teachers have mastered the subject-matter content of each of the core academic subjects they are teaching? (Note: experience and association with content-focused groups or organizations do not necessarily translate into an objective measure of content knowledge.)

Has the State consulted with core content specialists, teachers, principals, and school administrators?

Does the State plan to widely distribute its HOUSSE procedures, and are they presented in a format understandable to all teachers?

Changes: None.

Comment: A few commenters asked whether the additional time allowed for teachers living in rural areas who teach multiple subjects applies to special education teachers. One commenter requested that teachers in rural areas have three extra years after the date of employment to meet the standards. Another commenter stated it will be difficult for these teachers to meet the highly qualified special education teacher requirements even with an extended deadline.

Discussion: The Department's policy on flexibility for middle and high school teachers in rural schools applies to special education teachers. Under this policy, announced on March 15, 2004, States may permit LEAs eligible to participate in the Small Rural School Achievement (SRSA) program that employ teachers who teach multiple subjects and are highly qualified in at least one core academic subject, to have until the end of the 2006-07 school year for these teachers to be highly qualified in each subject that they teach. Newly-hired teachers in these covered LEAs have three years from the date of hire to become highly qualified in each core academic subject that they teach. More information about this policy is available in the Department's nonregulatory guidance, Improving Teacher Quality State Grants (August 3, 2005), which can be found on the Department's Web site at: http://www.ed.gov/programs/teacherqual/guidance.doc. Changes: None.

Comment: Some commenters requested a definition of "new" special education teacher and asked whether it applies to teachers hired after the date of enactment of the Act, December 3, 2004, or after the 2005-06 school year. One commenter asked whether a fully certified regular education teacher who enrolls in a special education teacher training program would be considered "new" to the profession when he or she completes the training program.

Discussion: Under the Act, mere completion of a special education teacher training program is not a sufficient predicate for being considered a highly qualified special education teacher. Section 602(10)(B) of the Act requires full State certification or licensure as a special education teacher, and this would apply to teachers who are already certified or licensed as a regular education teacher, as well as to other individuals.

On the question of when a person is "new to the profession," the Department's non-regulatory guidance on Improving Teacher Quality State Grants issued on August 3, 2005, clarifies that States have the authority to define which teachers are new and not new to the profession; however, those definitions must be reasonable. The guidance further states that the Department strongly believes that a teacher with less than one year of teaching experience is "new" to the profession (see Question A-6). (The guidance is available at http://www.ed.gov/programs/teacherqual/guidance.doc). This guidance is applicable to determinations of when a person is new or not new to the profession under section 602(10)(C) and (D)(ii) of the Act and Sec. 300.18(c) and (d)(2).

Under section 602(10)(D)(iii) of the Act, and reflected in Sec. 300.18(d)(3), there is additional flexibility for "a new special education teacher" who is teaching multiple subjects and is highly qualified in mathematics, language arts, or science, to demonstrate competence in the other core academic subjects in which the teacher teaches in the same manner as is required for an elementary, middle, or secondary school teacher who is not new to the profession, which may include a single, high objective uniform State standard of evaluation covering multiple subjects, not later than 2 years after the date of employment. The phrase "2 years after the date of employment" in section 602(10)(D)(iii) of the Act is interpreted to mean 2 years after employment as a special education teacher.

For purposes of this provision, we consider it appropriate to consider a fully certified regular education teacher who subsequently becomes fully certified or licensed as a special education teacher to be considered a "new special education teacher" when they are first hired as a special education teacher. We will add language to new Sec. 300.18(g) (proposed Sec. 300.18(f)) to make this clear.

Changes: We have restructured Sec. 300.18(g) (proposed Sec. 300.18(f)) and added a new paragraph (g)(2) to permit a fully certified regular education teacher who subsequently becomes fully certified or licensed as a special education teacher to be considered a new special education teacher when first hired as a special education teacher.

Comment: Some commenters recommended that the regulations clarify how co-teaching fits with the highly qualified special education teacher requirements. A few commenters stated that a special education teacher should be considered a highly qualified teacher if co-teaching with a highly qualified general education teacher. One commenter stated that co-teaching will encourage districts to work toward more inclusive settings for children with disabilities while also ensuring that teachers with appropriate qualifications are in the classroom. One commenter supported co-teaching as a method for special education teachers to learn core content knowledge and be supported by the general education teacher. One teacher recommended that a highly qualified general education teacher supervise teachers who do not meet the highly qualified special education teacher requirements.

Discussion: The term "co-teaching" has many different meanings depending on the context in which it is used. Whether and how co-teaching is implemented is a matter that is best left to State and local officials' discretion. Therefore, we decline to include language regarding co-teaching in these regulations. Regardless of whether co-teaching models are used, States and LEAs must ensure that teachers meet the highly qualified teacher requirements in 34 CFR 200.56 and section 9101(23) of the ESEA and the highly qualified special education teacher requirements in Sec. 300.18 and section 602(10) of the Act, as well as the personnel requirements in Sec. 300.156 and section 612(a)(14) of the Act.

Changes: None.

Comment: One commenter recommended requiring schools to post the credentials of educational personnel in a place with public access, and to include in the procedural safeguards notice a parent's right to request the credentials of any teacher who supports the child in an educational environment. Another commenter stated that parents should have access to records documenting the type of supervision that is being provided when a teacher or other service provider is under the supervision of a highly qualified teacher. One commenter stated that the ESEA requires districts to provide parents with information about the personnel qualifications of their child's classroom teachers and asked whether this requirement applies to special education teachers.

Discussion: There is nothing in the Act that authorizes the Department to require schools to publicly post the credentials of educational personnel or to provide parents with information about the qualification of their child's teachers and other service providers. Section 615 of the Act describes the guaranteed procedural safeguards afforded to children with disabilities and their parents under the Act but does not address whether parents can request information about the qualifications of teachers and other service providers.

However, section 1111(h)(6) of the ESEA requires LEAs to inform parents about the quality of a school's teachers in title I schools. The ESEA requires that at the beginning of each school year, an LEA that accepts title I, part A funding must notify parents of children in title I schools that they can request information regarding their child's classroom teachers, including, at a minimum: (1) whether the teacher has met the State requirements for licensure and certification for the grade levels and subject-matters in which the teacher provides instruction; (2) whether the teacher is teaching under emergency or other provisional status through which State qualification or licensing criteria have been waived; (3) the college major and any other graduate certification or degree held by the teacher, and the field of discipline of the certification or degree; and (4) whether the child is provided services by paraprofessionals, and if so, their qualifications. In addition, each title I school must provide parents with timely notice that the parent's child has been assigned, or has been taught for four or more consecutive weeks by, a teacher who is not highly qualified. These requirements apply only to those special education teachers who teach core academic subjects in title I schools.

Changes: None.