Improving Systems, Practices and Outcomes

Standards and Licensure

State Certification, Licensure and Credentialing Overview

States and state agencies use a variety of mechanisms to indicate that providers of services to young children and their families are appropriately qualified. These include state certification, licensure, and credentialing.

  • In general, state certification is provided by state Departments of Education to teachers and related service providers.
  • This certification should be differentiated from some professions' national certification [e.g., speech-language pathologists and audiologists may be certified by ASHA (American Speech-Language-Hearing Association).]
  • States may also control the practice of some professions using state licensure, with regulations established by the state's legislature.
  • Support personnel may be regulated by licensure or through registration, which typically involves fewer controls.
  • In addition, states may establish a separate credentialing process to govern the provision of services to a specific group, such as young children with disabilities and their families.
    • For example, some states have established a set of competencies for early interventionists and/or services coordinators which must be met by all those who deliver such services, regardless of certification or licensing standards they may have met within their professions.
    • In a similar fashion, states may have specific credentials for those who deliver services to children with specific disabilities, such as autism. These credentials typically require additional coursework and/or professional experience.

Programs may also need to be credentialed. Pre-service provider training programs may have certification requirements that assure consumers that their graduates are appropriately qualified. Agencies and programs that deliver services to children with disabilities and their families may also need to meet accreditation standards.

National Centers, Clearinghouses, Reports and Studies

The Early Childhood Technical Assistance Center (ECTA Center)

  • Section 619 Profile, 19th edition (2012) has State Education Authorities' (SEAs') PDF: state licensing and certification requirements for early childhood education and special education, as well as information about SEA's PDF: support for the use of paraprofessionals.
  • The ECTA Center's topical page on Service Coordination provides an overview of this mandated Part C service. It includes examples of states' on-line courses or modules that are part of a credentialing or qualification process for service coordinators and other early intervention providers.

WWW: The Center on Personnel Studies in Special Education (COPSSE) has released three research syntheses, including Executive Summaries, pertaining to special education certification and licensure:

COPSSE has also published several Issue Briefs, which synthesize literature on supply and demand, professional preparation, and certification and licensure for the following professionals who provide services in schools to children with disabilities:

In addition, there are briefs on:

The WWW: Center to Inform Personnel Preparation Policy and Practice in Early Intervention and Preschool Education collects, synthesizes, and analyzes information concerning personnel working with infants, toddlers, and preschool children with special needs and their families. The Center has produced the following reports on the standards and requirements for services providers:

  • PDF: Part C Data Report (December 2004) includes summaries for all service providers in the Early Intervention system
  • PDF: 619 Data Report (December 2004) includes summaries for all service providers in the Early Childhood Special Education system

WWW: The National Center for Special Education Personnel and Related Services Providers (The Personnel Center) is charged with building state and local capacity to recruit and retain highly qualified special education and related service personnel to serve children and youth with disabilities, birth to 21, and their families. The Personnel Center has information on states' certification and licensing requirements.

WWW: The Monarch Center promotes the participation of minority institutions of higher education in IDEA personnel preparation grant competitions as well as supporting recruitment and retention of qualified personnel.

The WWW: Research and Training Center on Service Coordination developed competencies and training materials for service coordinators.

The WWW: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics has information about training and qualifications for special education teachers and related service providers, including those who work with young children.

Professional Associations and Organizations

The WWW: Education Commission of the States (ECS) publishes reports and maintains a data base concerning the states' educational programs. Information available includes:

The WWW: Council for Exceptional Children (CEC) provides information related to personnel standards for individuals delivering services to young children with disabilities and their families.

The WWW: National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) provides an overview of standards for programs to prepare early childhood professionals and PDF: AssociateDegree Programs (July 2003).

Professional Standards and Guidelines

WWW: Council for Exceptional Children (CEC)

WWW: Division for Early Childhood (DEC)

WWW: National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC)

WWW: National Board for Professional Teaching Standards

WWW: Standards and National Board Certification

Examples of State Competency Requirements, Certification and Licensure

  • IDEAs that Work: Office of Special Education Programs, U.S. Department of Education

The ECTA Center is a program of the FPG Child Development Institute of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, funded through cooperative agreement number H326P170001 from the Office of Special Education Programs, U.S. Department of Education. Opinions expressed herein do not necessarily represent the Department of Education's position or policy.

Project Officer: Julia Martin Eile     © 2012-2019 ECTA Center

  • UNC Frank Porter Graham Child Development Institute