Terms and Definitions

Certificate - A license issued by the State of Illinois authorizing the holder to teach or work with students at a specified grade or age level, or to serve in a specific role, such as a high school teacher or guidance counselor.

Endorsement - A descriptor placed on an Illinois certificate which specifies and limits the subject, student group, or area of responsibility for which that certificate is valid. For example, a mathematics endorsement on a secondary certificate authorizes the holder to teach mathematics in grades 6-12.

Designation - An additional descriptor that further identifies and limits the subject area for which the certificate and its endorsement are valid. Designations are required for certain subjects or fields, such as science, social science, and foreign languages, and are optionally available in several other fields.

Approval - A state authorization to teach a specific subject or grade level. "Approvals" are available only for certain specialized areas such as early childhood special education and bilingual education. The approval is typically issued in the form of a letter from the State Board of Education rather than as a statement on the holder's certificate .

Initial and Advanced Certification Programs - Programs that prepare the candidate for a first teaching certificate are called "initial certification programs." These programs are offered at the undergraduate and graduate levels and do not require a bachelor's degree as a prerequisite for admission except in conjunction with an advanced degree. At NIU, all undergraduate teacher preparation programs except those for the reading specialist and library information specialist certificates are considered "initial certification programs."

Certification programs that are offered only at the graduate level and that require a bachelor's degree as a prerequisite for admission are called "advanced certification programs." These programs typically lead to specialized certification in areas such as school administration and school services. Some "advanced certification programs" require prior certification as a teacher and/or a designated amount of experience.

Initial and Subsequent Teaching Certificates - The first Illinois teaching certificate is called an "initial" certificate, while additional teaching certificates earned by the holder are called "subsequent" certificates.

Focused Certification Programs - Individualized certification programs that are designed for students seeking an additional or "subsequent" teaching certificate. Focused certification programs are structured around the requirements for the initial certificate but, at the institution's discretion, give credit for the candidate's previous training and experience. Each teacher preparation institution must have policies and procedures for its administration of "focused certification programs."

Alternative Certification Programs - Certification programs that are designed to provide an expedited route to teaching for individuals who hold at least a bachelor's degree and have experience in a related field.

Entitlement - Certification based on institutional recommendation and verification that all requirements have been met. Issuance of the certificate is essentially automatic once the required state assessments have been passed and all fees have been paid.