FREQUENTLY-ASKED QUESTIONS: HIGHLY QUALIFIED TEACHERS
- How did Pennsylvania calculate the percentages of “highly qualified teachers” in the public schools of the Commonwealth? Annually, each school entity submits its Elementary and Secondary Professional Personnel (ESPP) report that includes each teacher’s class assignment(s). This information is matched against the Teacher Certification System (TCS) to the teacher’s certificate subject areas. A crosswalk was created to list all of the appropriate certificate areas for each assignment.
- What is the definition of a “highly qualified teacher” in Pennsylvania? How is that definition different from the U. S. Department of Education’s (USDOE) definition? A highly qualified teacher in Pennsylvania holds an Intern, Instructional I or Instructional II certificate in the subject area he/she is assigned to teach. In order to issue that certificate, an individual must hold a bachelor’s degree, have completed a content area major and passed a content area test. Additionally, that individual must have completed teacher education course work, including student teaching. A highly qualified teacher, according to USDOE, is fully certified, holds a bachelor’s degree, and has completed a content area major OR passed a content area test in the subject area to be taught.
- How did the Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE) receive the assignment information on the public school teachers? This data on teacher assignments was submitted to the Department by each school entity in an annual report of the Elementary and Secondary Professional Personnel (ESPP).
- Which schools are included in this report? Only public school districts, intermediate units, area vocational technical schools and charter schools are included in the report to the USDOE and for the School Report Card.
- Which subject areas are considered to be “core content areas” for classroom assignments? The U. S. Department of Education has on its list of core content areas the following: arts, reading/language arts, social studies, science, mathematics and world languages. The Pennsylvania Department of Education also included in this data all instructional areas for assignments, not only the core content areas.
- How does a school entity know if an error has been made in its report to PDE? After the ESPP report is submitted to the Department, the teachers and their assignments are matched to the Teacher Certification System. If there is a discrepancy and the teacher is indicated as Not Highly Qualified, a Data Exception Report is generated back to the entity for its review.
- Can a school entity correct its ESPP report? After reviewing the Data Exception Report, the school entity should correct its ESPP report and re-send to the Department before the report is considered closed.
- Which professional educators are counted in this data for the No Child Left Behind report and the School Report Card? Only educators holding instructional certificates for classroom teaching are included in this report. Educational Specialists (school nurses, guidance counselors, etc.), vocational teachers, supervisors and administrators are not considered part of this report.
- How should the data from the charter schools be viewed? Because charter schools are established under the statutes of Act 22, they are permitted to employ and assign non-certificated teachers, as long as 75% of their instructional staff is certified. Therefore, specific matching against the TCS database would not reflect with complete accuracy all highly qualified teachers in a charter school.
- Can teachers serving on emergency permits be considered “highly qualified” in accordance with the above definition? While most teachers serving on emergency permits could meet the USDOE definition of holding a bachelor’s degree and having a content area major or passing a content area test, Pennsylvania requires the completion of an approved teacher preparation program in order to be eligible for full certification.
- How is certification monitored by the state? Every two years, a team from the Department of the Auditor General reviews each public school entity. Part of that review is the certification and assignment of professional staff. An audit report is provided to the Pennsylvania Department of Education, Bureau of Teacher Certification and Preparation, of any discrepancies in staffing. Withholding of some of the entity’s financial subsidy may result from any certification citations upheld by the Department of Education.
Questions and concerns regarding this report information should be emailed to:
For more information, please contact:
Bureau of School Leadership and Teacher Quality
Pennsylvania Department of Education
333 Market Street
Harrisburg, PA 17126-0333