OLR Research Report

January 17, 2008




By: Judith Lohman, Chief Analyst

You asked several questions about renewing or continuing a Connecticut state teaching certificate. The questions and answers are listed individually below. For your further information, we attach two State Department of Education teacher certification fact sheets, #107 and #117, that provide additional detailed information.

When does a teacher need to recertify (renew his teaching certificate)?

Connecticut has three levels of teaching certificates, each with a different duration and renewal requirements.

Initial certificates are issued to teachers who meet the coursework and testing requirements and have less than three years' teaching experience in the last 10. An initial certificate is valid for two years and may be reissued five times.

Provisional certificates, which are valid for eight years, require (1) one year of successful experience under an initial certificate and completion of the Beginning Educator Support and Training (BEST) Program, if available; (2) three years of successful experience in the past 10 years; or (3) successful experience during the preceding school year under the types of provisional certificates issued before 1989.

Professional certificates are issued to applicants who have completed three years of successful experience under a provisional certificate and have completed the required additional coursework. Professional certificates are valid for five years. In order to have the certificate continued, a teacher must complete 90 hours of professional development experience (CGS 10-145b and 10-145f).

In addition to a teaching certificate, Connecticut teachers must get endorsements for their particular teaching areas. State regulations require particular coursework requirements for each endorsement.

Are teachers or the school systems informed of an upcoming certificate expiration date? If so, is the notice mailed by certified mail?

Notice to Teachers. The State Department of Education (SDE) believes that the primary responsibility for knowing when a teaching certificate is to expire rests with the certificate holder. However, according to Katherine Nicoletti, legislative liaison for the State Department of Education, the department, as a courtesy, sends out about 15,000 notices each year to certificate holders whose certificates are about to expire. The letters give between 30 days' and three months' notice of the expiration. The department is currently sending notices to professional educator certificate holders whose certificates will expire this summer.

The letters are sent by regular mail to the address SDE has on file. A certificate holder who does not notify SDE of an address change may not receive the notice. Nicoletti says the department has a relatively high return rate for the notices. In addition, because the postage cost for the notices is significant, in a tight budget year, the department may reduce the notification program. Finally, the department does not notify those with the following credentials: coaching permits, substitute teacher permits, and one-year interim certificates.

Notice to School Districts. Each school district receives a so-called “compliance package” from SDE each year that includes a list of the certificate holders they employ whose certificates will be expiring in the coming 12 to 18 months. The department asks the districts to notify their employees of their upcoming expiration dates, but the districts are not required to do so. In addition, a certificate holder who is not employed by a school district would not be included in the district notification.

What does recertification entail?

Teachers holding initial and provisional certificates who need an extension of time to complete the requirements to move up to the next certificate levels may apply to the SDE to have these certificates continued up to the renewal limits described above.

Teachers seeking to continue their professional educator certificates must complete the 90 hours of professional development (known as continuing education units or CEUs) every five years. Teachers are responsible for maintaining records of their CEU completion certificates to verify that they have fulfilled this requirement. Teachers must apply to the SDE's Bureau of Certification and Professional Development no earlier than six months and no later than six weeks before the professional educator certificate expires. As part of the application, they must attest that they have successfully completed the 90 CEUs. The application for continuing a professional certificate is Form ED 179, which is available online (copy attached).

There is no fee to continue a professional certificate.

What organization or department administers teacher certification requirements?

The teacher certification and professional development requirements are administered by the Bureau of Certification and Professional Development, which part of the State Department of Education.

If a teacher fails to renew or continue his certificate by the deadline, what actions are taken against him? Is there a detailed system defining penalties or are they wholly or partly decided on a case-by-case basis? What are the penalties for failing to recertify or renew or for doing so late?

State law prohibits local boards of education from employing any teacher, supervisor, administrator, special service staff member, or school superintendent in any of their schools unless the person has the appropriate teaching certificate issued by the State Board of Education (SBE). No such employee can receive a salary unless he is properly certified (CGS 10-145 (a)).

In addition, only “teachers” can participate in, and receive benefits from, the Teachers' Retirement System (TRS). By law, a teacher must be employed by the public schools in a professional capacity “while possessing a certificate or permit issued by the State Board of Education, provided on and after July 1, 1975, such certificate shall be for the position in which the person is then employed” (CGS 10-183b (26)). Thus, a teacher who is not certified for the position he or she occupies cannot receive credit in the TRS for that service. These penalties are statutory and are not decided on a case-by-case basis.

Finally, a local school board that employs a teacher or other person who is not properly certified may also be subject to penalties. If the SBE finds a local school board has violated certification requirements, it can require the local board to forfeit between $1,000 and $10,000 of its state aid. The SBE sets the amount within these parameters. The forfeited amount must be withheld from the district's education grants for the fiscal year following the year SBE determined the board failed to comply with certification requirements. SBE can waive the penalty if it determines that the violation resulted from circumstances beyond the board's control (CGS 10-145).

Has the issue of educators failing to renew or recertify by the deadlines been a legislative issue in the past? Has the General Assembly used legislation to retroactively waive the penalties for an educator who fails to recertify on time?

The issue of teachers failing to renew or continue their certificates on time have not been a legislative issue nor has the General Assembly ever retroactively waived the consequences for a teacher who let his or her certificate expire.

But the legislature has made exceptions to the law requiring those holding professional educator certificates to complete 90 CEUs every five years to give educators more time to complete the CEUs in certain circumstances.

PA 91-288 allows legislators who hold professional educator certificates to have the certificates reissued after five years without having to complete 90 CEUs within that time. It gives legislators a grace period of six months for each year served in the legislature, up to a maximum of two and a half years beyond the initial five-year period. But a legislator still must complete the required 90 CEUs by the end of the grace period to be eligible to have his or her certificate renewed.

PA 93-70 allows people who hold professional educator certificates to have them reissued after five years, upon application, without having completed the 90 CEUs, if they have been unemployed as a teacher or administrator during that time. The grace period amounts to the length of unemployment, up to five years, but a certificate can be reissued only once during any five-year period under this extension.