Deadline to obtain Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL) credits

Teachers will need to obtain six credits or equivalency within three years starting in SY 2020–21

This story was originally published on Jan. 15, 2020. It has since been updated to reflect additional consultation between the HSTA and HIDOE regarding the required TESOL credits.

On June 3, 2020, the Hawaii State Department of Education issued an updated memo regarding the three-year deadline to obtain necessary credits in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL). There are now seven options to obtain the six TESOL credits or equivalency.

For approximately 20 years, the HIDOE has had a requirement that all teachers needed to work toward obtaining six credits in TESOL or equivalency and report their credits. Last March, the HIDOE sent out a memo reminding teachers of this requirement. However, in recent history, the HIDOE’s focus on tracking and confirming teachers who have obtained the credits has been inconsistent. Going forward, the HIDOE is going to centralize its data collection related to these credits and has implemented a deadline for teachers to obtain them.

Starting in school year 2020–21, the HIDOE will require teachers who provide direct instruction to students to obtain their six TESOL credits or equivalency within three years. The HIDOE is also designating the TESOL credits as meeting the “Sheltered Instruction Qualification.” This requirement applies regardless of instructional assignment.

The Hawaii State Teachers Association engaged the HIDOE in an extensive consult and confer regarding our concern over this change in expectations. Please see the following FAQs that may help you to understand the new requirements.

Q1: What if I already have my six TESOL credits?

A1: Teachers should check their record in eHQ to confirm their credits on file. Should a teacher need to submit credits for their record, they can use this form.

Q2: What kind of credits will meet the requirements for meeting the Sheltered Instruction Qualification, and/or why were my credits denied?

A2: See this reference sheet for more information. In addition, some teachers have reported their credits were denied as not meeting the requirements. HSTA has inquired about denials, and the HIDOE reports that teachers are submitting credits that are actually related to special education and do not meet the standards for sheltered instruction. Other issues include teachers who were improperly told years ago, likely by their school’s EL coordinator, that the credits they earned met the standards when they didn’t.

Q3: What options do teachers have to meet the six TESOL credit requirement?

A3: See this reference sheet for the seven options to meet the credit requirements.

Q4: Can my principal force me to take a TESOL PD course outside of paid work time?

A4: No, while the HIDOE has the right to require teachers to obtain TESOL training, teachers have the right to ask that the PD be taken during paid work time, including if necessary having a substitute teacher provided to facilitate the teacher’s TESOL coursework.  See Option 3 on this reference sheet.

Q5: How do I get access to the National Education Association (NEA) English Language Learner micro-credentials stack (Option 6)?

A5: More information can be found here. Note these micro-credentials are only available for NEA members.

Q6: I submitted a hard copy form to our TESOL coordinator (recently/a long time ago). Do I still have to submit to the EQ Section?

A6: Yes. Regardless of any previous submission at the school level, teachers need to check their eHQ record and submit credits if they are not reflected in their record.

Q7: What are the consequences for any teachers not able to secure their six TESOL credits within three years? Are we going to get additional time in light of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic?

A7: We asked the HIDOE this question and this was their response: “The Department’s expectation is that all teachers are able to address the needs of ELs and provide an environment conducive to learning for ELs. Multiple pathways are being provided to support teachers to meet the ongoing language development needs of ELs.” HSTA recognizes that the HIDOE didn’t really answer the question. We expect that the department will provide the necessary supports including if needed paid work time to complete the credits.

HSTA has asked if the HIDOE will consider an extension of the amount of time given to obtain sheltered instruction credits. At this time, the HIDOE is not willing to consider an extension, however we will continue to monitor this issue and update teachers if things change.

Q8: I am a non-classroom teacher and have no instructional responsibilities. Do I have to secure the six TESOL credits within three years?

A8: Generally no, as long as you do not plan for or provide direct instruction to students. Recently, we found out that the HIDOE is asking Student Services Coordinators (SSCs) to obtain the six (6) credits. This request is based on the HIDOE’s determination that it is generally within an SSC’s job description to help plan for ELs instructional services. However, there may be situations where an SSC does not engage in that type of work. If that is the case and the principal can confirm that the SSC does not engage in this planning for instruction, then they will not be required to obtain the credits. Should you be assigned a classroom position, you will have to meet the requirement. Should have you have further questions, please discuss with your supervisor or contact the English Learner Program to the Student Support Section at osssel@k12.hi.us or (808) 305-9787.

Q9: What if I have questions about how to submit or obtain my credits?

A9: Submit questions related to your eHQ record to hqt@k12.hi.us or call (808) 441-8499. If you have specific program questions, contact the English Learner Program to the Student Support Section at osssel@k12.hi.us or (808) 305-9787.

Related Links

Q10: I attempted to submit three (3) of my credits to Electronic Highly Qualified (eHQ) system and was told that I couldn’t. Why? 

A10: Teachers are asked to submit the credits when they have fully met the six (6) credits for the option being utilized. Otherwise the system will mark the requirement as “NOT APPROVED.” Unfortunately this is a limitation of the current system. Teachers should wait and submit all six (6) credits together to avoid confusion and complications. In addition, the eHQ system is in the process of being upgraded as currently it can only accept Option 1 (university credits). The department currently has the system being programmed for an update and anticipates that it should be ready to accept other types of options by the end of this school year. Click here for more information on the options, processing and how it appears in your report.

Q11: Can I get clarification when I can and can’t use professional development credits for reclassification:

a. If the employer provides a professional development day (paid by the employer) to attend a PD course during the workday for credit, may teachers use the credit for reclass?

A11a: No. When the employer provides a paid day to attend PD, it becomes an inequality and ethical issue if the credits are used for reclassification as there is a personal financial gain from being on employer-paid status to take a class.

b. If a teacher is provided a stipend (employer paid) to attend a PD course outside of the workday for credit, may the teacher use the credit for reclass?  

A11b: No. When the employer provides a stipend to attend PD, that is considered remuneration and credits for reclassification are not supposed to be granted. In addition, if the course and a stipend is provided by a non-HIDOE entity, teachers are advised they should consult with the Hawaii State Ethics Commission, as receiving the stipend and also using the credit for personal financial gain may be an issue.

c. If a teacher is provided an opportunity to attend a PD course and the cost of the actual course is paid for by the employer, during paid or unpaid time, may teachers use the credit for reclass?

A11c: The cost of the course itself has no relation to whether teachers can earn reclassification credits.

d. Must teachers take personal professional development leave (PPDL) if they are attending PD training during the workday in order to utilize the credit for reclass?

A11d: Yes. If a teacher wants to attend a PD course during the workday and wants to earn HIDOE PDE3 PD Credits or Academic Credits for the purpose of reclassification, they will need to utilize their personal professional development leave (PPDL), which is charged to their sick leave (see Article XII — Leaves, D. pg. 52 in our collective bargaining agreement).

Note: Teachers may always attend non-PD credit or non-academic credit PD activities during the workday for the purposes of meeting the Sheltered Instruction Qualifications.


June 3, 2020

  • Memo: Update to Six (6) Credit or Equivalency Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages Sheltered Instruction Requirement for Teachers
  • Attachment A: Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL) Related Sheltered Instruction Credit or Equivalent Options
  • Attachment B: Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL) Related Sheltered Instruction Competencies

Dec. 19, 2019

March 5, 2019