Pennsylvania teacher certification requirements to change with the class of 2013

August 28, 2007

University Park, Pa. -- Teacher certification in Pennsylvania is getting a new look.

The class of 2013 will be the first group of teachers certified under new regulations approved last week by the Independent Regulatory Review Commission.

"I think all the parties involved with this change -- the governor's office, the State Board of Education and the Pennsylvania Department of Education -- are interested in teaching and learning in Pennsylvania," said Jacqueline Edmondson, Penn State College of Education's associate dean for teacher education and undergraduate programs.

The state Attorney General's office still needs to review the regulation for legal issues but Edmondson said she expects that approval very soon.

Teacher certification will change from its current N-3, K-6, 7-12 and K-12 special education certification for all grades, to pre-K-4, 4-8, 7-12 and a mandated dual certification for special education teachers in Pre-K-8, reading or a content area of secondary education. All teacher education students will need to complete nine additional college credits (or 270 hours) in adaptations and accommodations for diverse learners and three additional credits (or 90 hours) in English language learning. A grandfather clause in the legislation states the changes will not affect teachers who currently hold teaching certificates in Pennsylvania. Edmondson added that the guidelines include a fast-track provision for students interested in a second certification.

"The new regulations are motivated by research showing that skills needed to be an effective teacher vary depending on students' ages and levels of development," said David H. Monk, dean of the Penn State College of Education. Monk also indicated that the regulations recognize the importance of preparing all teachers to work effectively with diverse learners.

No one is yet sure how the new certification will impact teacher education. Edmondson said working groups representing a broad range of educators -- college faculty, superintendents, administrators and teachers -- are giving their input to the proposed guidelines for the new certification. The groups, she said, will focus on the content knowledge and pedagogies needed for each age range as well as other understandings and experiences beginning teachers need. Faculty members from Penn State are involved in each working group: early childhood, middle level and special education.

Depending on the new guidelines, Edmondson said individual colleges will decide what certification levels they may or many not offer.

"All of the state's teacher education programs will work to address the changes and do what they need, to have the best programs possible," she said.

She's confident that the education faculty at Penn State will adapt their programs well to accommodate the changes and continue to offer innovative cutting edge education programs and research.

Since the new certification does not go into effect until 2013 and there will still be many K-6 certified teachers working in schools throughout the Commonwealth for years to come, it will be a long time before anyone will see the effects of the new legislation on public schools. One preliminary concern, based on what other states that have tried similar plans and have experienced, is the potential lack of interest in the 4-8 certification which could result in a shortage of teachers in grades 5 and 6.

For now, teacher education faculty throughout the state are just waiting for the guidelines.

Last Updated March 19, 2009