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Teacher Certification in Pennsylvania, PA

Pennsylvania’s academic achievement ratings in Math, Reading, Writing and Science and other subjects are somewhat higher than the national average. The state’s 129,708 teachers educate 1,775,029 students who attend approximately 3280 public schools and 127 public charter schools, according to a 2009 report published by the U.S. Department of Education’s National Center for Education Statistics.

  

Topics On This Page:

The Decision to Become a Teacher

Prospective teachers must decide on the grade level and subject area they want to teach. This decision will influence the paths they will follow both academically and experientially, and will eventually lead them to a teaching career.

Grade Levels

In addition to general requirements, such as graduating from an approved 4-year college
or university, teachers must meet requirements specific to the grade level they wish to teach.

If teachers are unsure about what grade level and subject area they would be best suited for, they should spend time with children of various ages. Working with children in classrooms, children’s centers or camps will help a teacher decide between the following grade/age levels: 

  • Early Childhood or Kindergarten.
  • Elementary school.
  • Middle school.
  • High school.

Level I and Level II Certification

Pennsylvania has two levels of Instructional certification:

Level I

Level I (provisional) certificates are valid for an educator’s early years of professional service in Pennsylvania.

While working under a Level I Initial certificate, a teacher must complete all of the state’s requirements. Once this has been accomplished, the Level I may be converted to a Level II certificate.  The Pennsylvania Initial I certificate is valid for a maximum of six service years. If not converted before the end of the applicable period, the certificate becomes invalid. 

An emergency permit will not be issued to a person with an invalid certificate, and Pennsylvania Level I certificates are not renewable. 

Level II

After teachers have completed all Level I requirements, they may apply for Level II certification. Certified Level I teachers are responsible for obtaining the Level II certificate before the Level I expires.  Failure to do so will result in a lapsed certificate, and the certificate holder will be ineligible for employment.

Level I to Level II: Academic Requirements

Applicants must complete the following before being upgraded to Level II certification:

24 semester credits at the graduate or undergraduate level earned at a four-year degree-granting college/university. 
or

24 Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE)-approved intermediate unit (IU) credits after earning the initial bachelor’s degree.

Distance learning courses are acceptable as long as passing grades appear on an official transcript of a state-approved baccalaureate degree-granting institution.

Level I to Level II: Experiential Requirements
Pennsylvania specifies where and how teachers can complete acceptable hours of teaching experience required for advancement to Level II, for example:
Professional experience must be in Pennsylvania, on a valid Level I certificate, and in the curriculum area for which the certificate was issued.

Substitute teaching in areas for which a Level I certificate is held will be credited towards Level II, as long as the applicant has substituted for a minimum of 45 days in a single assignment.

Testing Requirements in Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania requires assessments of all teaching candidates in basic skills, as well as in general professional and subject area knowledge before a certificate may be issued. 

To obtain Initial Certification, the following tests are mandatory and must correspond with the teacher’s chosen grade level and/or subject area: 

  • Appropriate Pre-Professional Skills Tests (PPST) in Reading, Writing and Mathematics
  • Appropriate Praxis II Fundamental Subjects Content Knowledge Exam

The different levels for which Praxis I and II exams are available include:

  • Early Childhood.
  • Elementary Level (K-6 or PK-4).
  • K-12 Subject Area Specialty.
  • Special Education (PK-6).
  • Middle level (7-9 or 4-8).
  • Secondary level (7-12).
  • Special Education (7-12).

Individuals seeking dual certification are required to pass tests in both areas of specialization.

Beginning in 2012, Pennsylvania Educator Certification Tests (PECT) will replace the Praxis I and the Praxis II tests for Elementary and Early Childhood Certification.

Background Checks
All applicants for employment with public and private schools must undergo background checks. Background check requirements now include student teachers. 
Pennsylvania requires fingerprinting plus the following background checks:

  • Pennsylvania State Police Request for Criminal Records Check
  • Department of Public Welfare Child Abuse History Clearance.
  • Federal Criminal History Record Clearance.

Intern Certification Program

The Pennsylvania Teacher Intern Certification Program is designed for individuals who possess a minimum of a bachelor’s degree related to the area of certification requested.
Some of the requirements necessary to apply to and qualify for the program and to be granted Intern Certification include:

  • Entering candidates must have a minimum of a 3.0 GPA for their baccalaureate degree.
  • Candidates must complete an approved preadmission screening to be accepted into the program.
  • Candidates must achieve satisfactory scores on the Praxis I Preprofessional Skills Tests (PPST) in Reading, Writing, and Mathematics.
  • Candidates must pass the appropriate specialty area tests.
  • The candidate must be continuously enrolled in a Teacher Intern Program.
  • The Intern certificate is a valid professional certificate that entitles the holder to fill professional teaching position.
  • The Intern certificate is valid for three calendar years and not renewable.
  • The candidate must have the Intern certificate to enter the classroom.
  • Upon completion of the Intern Program, the teacher can be recommended for a Level I Instructional certificate.

Out of State applicants

Pennsylvania has signed an Interstate Agreement with other states based upon mutually agreed-upon conditions.

Out of state candidates who want to teach in Pennsylvania must provide verification that they have:

  • Been awarded a bachelor’s degree.
  • Completed a state-approved teacher education program, including student teaching.
  • Been recommended by their college or university.

Complied with requirements for Pennsylvania licensing, such as:

Math and English credits.
3.0 GPA.
Mandatory Praxis Exams or Pennsylvania Educator Certification Tests.
Clear background checks.

References:

  • http://www.portal.state.pa.us/portal/server.pt/community/certifications/7199
  • http://www.portal.state.pa.us/portal/server.pt?open=514&objID=507102&mode=2
  • http://www.shipk12.org/web/filemgmt_data/files/Level2.pdf