Opportunities exist for districts to address staffing shortages in special education. The following questions and answers will assist districts in understanding some of the options available to them when they are unable to recruit and hire teachers who do not have a special education endorsement.
1. What is the difference between a temporary out-of-endorsement assignment and a pre-endorsement waiver?
- Completed at the district level
- Available when the individual to be assigned has completed six semester hours or nine quarter hours of coursework applicable to a special education endorsement
- Approved by formal vote of local school board
- WAC 392-172A-02090(2)(b)(ii)
A pre-endorsement waiver requires:
- Completion of an OSPI application
- A potential candidate who has completed 16 semester hours or 24 quarter hours applicable towards a special education endorsement
- OSPI approval
2. When is it appropriate for a district to initiate the processes for a temporary out-of-endorsement assignment or application for a pre-endorsement waiver? What are the processes?
Both temporary out-of-endorsement assignment and a pre-endorsement waiver are to be used as a last resort in staffing a special education teaching position. A district must document that every attempt has been made to recruit and hire an individual who is appropriately certified and endorsed to teach special education. Should a district be unable to recruit and hire an individual who is qualified to teach special education, it may wish to proceed with a temporary out-of-endorsement assignment or request a potential applicant to apply for a pre-endorsement waiver. In both of these instances, the individual’s time and effort may be charged to either federal and/or state special education funding codes.
The temporary out-of-endorsement assignment process is completed entirely at the district level.
WAC 392-172A-02090 explains in detail the steps a district must take to assign, temporarily, an unendorsed individual in a special education teaching position. This is the same process a district uses to assign any teacher to an area in which she/he does not have an endorsement, and requires approval by a formal vote of the local school board for each teacher assigned through this process (WAC 181-82-110).
The individual who is assigned to the special education position without an endorsement must hold a valid Washington State teaching certificate. This individual must have completed six semester hours or nine quarter hours of coursework applicable towards a special education endorsement. A designated representative of the district and the teacher who does not hold an endorsement, must mutually develop a written plan that provides for necessary assistance to the teacher, and a reasonable amount of planning and study time specifically associated with the out-of-endorsement assignment. It is important to note that a special education endorsed individual within the district must review and monitor the IEPs of students assigned to the unendorsed individual who does not have the credentials to fully complete the special education requirements [WAC 392-172A-02090(1)(g)]. Districts are urged to use this temporary assignment sparingly, and to either recruit and hire a properly credentialed individual as soon as possible, or ensure the person in the temporary assignment is pursuing a special education endorsement. Continued hiring of inappropriately credentialed individuals is not an educationally sound practice.
The pre-endorsement waiver is for teachers who have completed 24 credit hours (or 16 semester hours) applicable toward a special education endorsement and requires an OSPI application process. The application can be found at http://www.k12.wa.us/specialed/waivers.aspx. The district making the job offer or contemplating assigning the teacher to a special education assignment, the potential applicant, and the Institution of Higher Education (IHE) where the applicant is enrolled or earned his/her credits must each complete specific sections of the application. Once the application is complete, it is sent to the special education section at OSPI for review. If the applicant meets the criteria for the waiver, the applicant is sent a letter with a copy to the district indicating he/she has five years to complete the endorsement requirements [WAC 181-82-110(4)]. This individual is considered competent to write IEPs and commit district resources as the district's designee, unless the district indicates otherwise. It should be noted that if such an individual moves to another district, the pre-endorsement waiver remains valid for that individual.
3. May an individual who holds a standard/continuing certificate be assigned to an elementary or secondary special education teaching position?
If the certificate holder was eligible for a continuing certificate prior to August 31, 1987 or had applied for said certificate prior to July 1, 1988 and met the eligibility requirements for the certificate prior to August 31, 1987, she/he may be assigned to a special education teaching position. Continuing certificates issued prior to August 31, 1987 did not require an endorsement for special education and enable the holder to serve in any subject area at all levels P-12[WAC 181-79A-250(2)]. It is up to the employing district to place the holder of the standard/continuing certificate according his/her experience and area of preparation. This individual's time and effort may be charged to either federal and/or state special education funding codes.
4. If a teacher has an emergency or conditional teaching certificate that lists “special education” under the endorsement areas, does that mean the teacher is able to independently perform all of the duties of a special education teacher (e.g., write IEPs, conduct IEP meetings, etc.)?
Areas listed under “Endorsements” on an emergency or conditional teaching certificate indicate the areas to which the teacher may be assigned, and do not necessarily indicate that the teacher is appropriately qualified to independently serve as a special education teacher. The district should also use the temporary out-of-endorsement assignment process or request a special education pre-endorsement waiver depending on the number of credits the applicant has obtained.
5. May an individual who holds a special education k-12 endorsement teach in a special education preschool program?
WAC 392-172A-02090(1)(d) states, "…Preference for an early childhood special education assignment must be given first to employees having early childhood special education endorsement." If a district is unable to recruit and hire an individual who is endorsed in early childhood special education, another individual holding a special education endorsement (K-12) may be assigned to the preschool position. If a district is unable to recruit and hire an individual with either an early childhood special education endorsement or a K-12 special education endorsement, then the district may want to consider a temporary out-of-endorsement assignment or, if appropriate, hire an individual who can meet the pre-endorsement waiver requirements. Time and effort can be charged to either the federal or state special education funding codes.