Q: We have a few teachers at one of our high school campuses who are certified to teach middle school but are not certified to teach high school. Do we have any state or federal obligations to notify parents?
A: Yes. Both state and federal laws have notification requirements in the event an educator is uncertified or improperly certified.
The Every Student Succeeds Act (“ESSA”) is the federal law regarding district obligations to notify parents of teacher (or substitute teacher) qualifications. Districts receiving Title I funds must provide parents two types of notices. The first is that a district is required to notify parents that the parents may request information regarding the qualifications of their students’ teachers and substitute teachers. You’ll generally see a notation about this in the Student Handbook. If a parent submits a request, the district is required to disclose that information in a timely manner. While “timely manner” is not defined in the statute, a reasonable interpretation would be in not event later than 30 days from the assignment. The second federal notification requirement kicks in if a student has been assigned or taught for four consecutive weeks or more by a teacher or substitute teacher who does not meet state certification requirements for that grade level and subject matter. In such an instance, the district is required to notify the parent(s) of each student of the teacher’s qualifications, also in a timely manner (without definition). This second notification does not require any prompting or request by the parents.
The state law works very similar to the federal law. Section 21.057 of the Texas Education Code requires districts to notify parents in writing when it “assigns an inappropriately certified or uncertified teacher to a classroom for more than 30 consecutive instructional days.” To be clear, the notice must be sent no later than the 30th instructional day after the first date of the assignment. Additionally, this law requires the district to make a good-faith effort to provide the notice in a bilingual form for parents whose primary language is not English. One caveat to this state law is that if the district has already provided notice to parents as required under ESSA, (the federal law above), such notice will satisfy the district’s responsibility to send a state notice. However, the reverse is not true – meaning, state notification does not alleviate a district’s responsibility to also send the federal notice. Sample notification form letters can be located in the TASB HR Library.