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By Julian Peeples

Changes are coming to education specialist credentials that will authorize holders to serve a broader range of students, rolling out in teacher preparation programs next summer. Current education specialist credential holders will be able, at their sole discretion, to pursue bridge authorizations to the new credentials.

The new education specialist structure consolidates seven credential areas into five by integrating the Language and Academic Development and the Physical and Health Impairments credentials into each of the other credential areas. The scope of authorizations under the current Mild/Moderate, Moderate/Severe, and Early Childhood Special Education credentials is expanded under the new structure of Mild to Moderate Support Needs (MMSN), Extensive Support Needs (ESN), and Early Childhood Special Education (ECSE), while the Deaf and Hard of Hearing and the Visual Impairments credentials carry forward unchanged.

Under the current structure, Mild/Moderate and Moderate/Severe credential holders are limited to serving students within specific federal disability categories. The new MMSN and ESN credentials will allow holders to serve a broader range of students based on the intensity of their needs while maintaining compliance with federal law.

Holders of the new credentials would continue to be authorized to support students from transitional kindergarten up to age 22. The new ECSE credential expands the range of federal disability categories a holder is authorized to support, while expanding the age range to birth through kindergarten.

Graphic comparing the old and new special education credential structures

Optional bridge authorizations

The system of bridge authorizations for current education specialist credential holders mirrors the authorizations for new preliminary credentials. The new credentials are aligned with modified Teacher Performance Expectations (TPE) that reflect the expanded authorizations. Current credential holders seeking a bridge authorization will need to demonstrate mastery of the modified TPEs in the new MMSN, ESN and ECSE credentials. This can be done several ways, including completing coursework offered by authorized teacher preparation programs, engaging in professional development, and demonstrating competence as verified by local school districts.

The California Commission on Teacher Credentialing (CTC) will not issue bridge authorizations prior to Jan. 1, 2023.

The proposed regulations for the revised education specialist credentials are available on the CTC website at, while information related to their implementation can be found at

Teaching Performance Assessments

Another significant change to the educator preparation system in California for candidates seeking an education specialist credential is the requirement for each candidate to pass a teaching performance assessment, when it becomes available. This Teaching Performance Assessment (TPA) will require that education specialist credential candidates work with TK-12 students in classrooms across California, and to document these interactions by developing lesson plans, teaching and assessing students (recording teaching practice and annotating the video as appropriate), collecting samples of student work, and reflecting on their practice.

All candidates enrolled in a preliminary education specialist Mild to Moderate Support Needs or an Extensive Support Needs program starting July 1, 2022, will have to take and pass a CTC-approved education specialist TPA. A TPA is still being developed for the Visual Impairments (VI), Deaf and Hard of Hearing (DHH), and Early Childhood Special Education (ECSE) candidates; however, all candidates enrolled in an educator preparation program starting July 1, 2022, will have to participate in the field test for the TPA that is being developed for these three areas in lieu of taking and passing a CTC-approved education specialist TPA.

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