Frequently Asked Questions

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Foto de una maestra. Picture of a teacher.October 2010

Why are we not surprised that you have a question on IDEA’s HQT requirements? You will no doubt agree that IDEA’s provisions on highly qualified special educators are nothing short of…um, complicated?

The author of the six FAQs below is none other than Marion Morton Crayton of OSEP itself (the Office of Special Education Programs).  The questions and answers are adapted from NICHCY’s training package on IDEA 2004, Building the Legacy. You’ll find them at the end of Module 7.

Here’s a quick-jump list to the topics:

  1. Regular to special educator?
  2. When a teacher moves to another state?
  3. Parent recourse?
  4. Private school teachers?
  5. HQT for preschool teachers?
  6. HQT for paraprofessionals?

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Question 1: Regular to Special Educator

If a veteran regular education teacher becomes certified in special education and is re-assigned as a special educator, is that teacher considered a “new” special educator under IDEA?

Answer: Yes. Reference the Department’s Q&A on Highly Qualified Teachers—specifically, Question A-2—available online at:

Experienced general education teachers may become newly certified in special education as part of their professional development and career plans. Under §300.18(g)(2),  when they are first hired as a special educator, they are considered a new special educator.

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Question 2: When a Teacher Moves to Another State

If a special education teacher taught in State 1 and now teaches in  State 2, is he or she considered “new” in State 2?

Answer: No. As the Department responds in its Q&A on HQT:

A special education teacher who has been teaching in one State and begins teaching in a different State is not considered “new to the profession.” States may choose to honor another State’s licensure or certification and determination of competence in core academic subjects based on the other State’s High Objective Uniform State Standards of Evaluation (HOUSSE) procedures. On the other hand, a State may choose to require teachers from other States to satisfy its own certification or licensure requirements, and to demonstrate competency in the core academic subjects that they teach under the new State’s standards and procedures. ( p. 3)

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Question 3: Parent Recourse

What recourse do parents have if there are no highly qualified teachers available?

Answer: Here again, we’d like to reference the Department’s Q&A on HQT of January 2007 (see Question C-1). A similar question was asked, and the answer is very relevant. The Department said:

Questions about whether a teacher is highly qualified are not ones on which parents or students can get any relief through a due process hearing. See 34 CFR §§300.18(f) and 300.156(e). The language in the regulation that ‘nothing in this part shall be construed to create a right of action’ means that a claim that a teacher is not highly qualified may not serve as a basis for relief for an individual student or class of students under IDEA. (p. 5)

So what’s a parent to do, then? Again, from the Department’s Q&A:

If concerns arise about whether a special education teacher is highly qualified, the Department encourages parents to try to resolve issues at the school level. It would make sense for them to talk to their child’s principal first, before doing anything else, to find out what the school is doing to ensure that the teacher gets the training that he or she needs to meet the highly qualified standards. If they are not satisfied with the steps the LEA is taking, they could file a complaint with the State educational agency (SEA). An organization or an individual other than a parent of a child served under IDEA may also file a complaint about staff qualifications with the SEA, consistent with the State complaint procedures in 34 CFR §§300.151 through 300.153. (Id.)

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Question 4: Private School Teachers

If an LEA sends a teacher to a private school to fulfill a child’s IEP, does that teacher have to be highly qualified?

Answer: Yes, any public elementary or secondary school teacher must meet the highly qualified requirements under both NCLB and IDEA. (Id., Question H-2, p. 10)

Note: The provisions regarding highly qualified special education teachers and private schools are found at §§300.18(h), 300.138, and 300.146(b). The module on parentally-placed private school children with disabilities (Module 16) extensively discusses both §§300.138 and 300.146(b).

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Question 5: HQT for Preschool

What are the highly qualified teacher requirements for… preschool?

Answer, again from the Department’s Q&A:

The highly qualified special education teacher requirements apply to all public elementary and secondary school special education teachers, including early childhood or preschool teachers if a State includes the early childhood or preschool programs as part of its elementary and secondary school system. If the early childhood or preschool program is not a part of a State’s public elementary and secondary school system, the highly qualified special education teacher requirements do not apply. (Id., Question E-1, p. 7)

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Question 6: HQT for Paraprofessionals

What are the highly qualified teacher requirements for…paraprofessionals?

Answer, yet again from the Department’s Q&A:

Qualifications for paraprofessionals must be consistent with any State-approved or State-recognized certification, licensing, registration, or other comparable requirements that apply to the professional discipline in which those personnel are providing special education or related services. Paraprofessionals and assistants may be used to assist in the provision of special education and related services to children with disabilities if they are appropriately trained and supervised, in accordance with State law, regulation, or written policy. (Id., Question I-1, p. 11)

The Department also discussed this matter in the Analysis of Comments and Changes that accompanied publication of the final Part B regulations. In addition to answer the question in the same way, the Department went on to say:

In addition, the ESEA requires that paraprofessionals, including special  education paraprofessionals who assist in instruction in title I-funded programs, have at least an associate’s degree, have completed at least two years of college, or meet a rigorous standard of quality and demonstrate, through a formal State or local assessment, knowledge of, and the ability to assist in instruction in reading, writing, and mathematics, reading readiness, writing readiness, or mathematics readiness, as appropriate. Paraprofessionals in title I schools do not need to meet these requirements if their role does not involve instructional support, such as special education paraprofessionals who solely provide personal care services. For more information on the ESEA requirements for  paraprofessionals, see 34 CFR 200.58 and section 1119 of the ESEA, and the Department’s nonregulatory guidance, Title I Paraprofessionals (March 1, 2004), which can be found on the Department’s Web site at:

We believe these requirements are sufficient to ensure that children with disabilities receive services from paraprofessionals who are appropriately and adequately trained. (71 Fed. Reg. at 46554)



U.S. Department of Education. (2007, January). Questions and answers on highly qualified teachers serving children with disabilities. Washington, DC: Author.  Available online at:

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