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Journal of Disability Policy Studies





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With the 2001 reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), the term highly qualified teacher (HQT) became an important component of teacher licensure, including for special educators. However, when ESEA was reauthorized in 2015 as the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), the highly qualified regulations were removed. The purpose of this study was to look back at the historical record of policy implementation of HQT and compare the record across states to provide implications for teacher preparation and licensure policy in the era of ESSA. This was accomplished through a review of the history of special education teacher licensure and completion of a comprehensive analysis of state licensure requirements under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act. Despite a general consistency across three domains (i.e., degree, examination, and licensure) of the highly qualified statute, inconsistencies among states at both the elementary and secondary levels of special educator licensure may yield significant challenges related to the impact of teacher quality on student outcomes. Better understanding of these challenges is important as policymakers will be better able to make decisions regarding what teachers need to know prior to entering the field to meet students’ needs and generate student achievement.


This is an Accepted Manuscript of an article published by Sage in Journal of Disability Policy Studies on August 6, 2020, available online:

Reuse restricted to noncommercial and no derivative uses.