When determining appropriate assignments, local educational agencies (LEAs) should refer to an individual's Commission-issued document to identify the scope of the educator's authorization(s) in regard to common assignment factors, such as educational setting, subject matter, and scope of service.

Common Educational Settings

Identifying the educational setting of an assignment will help determine what type of credential is needed to staff a position.  Some common educational settings are described below:

  • Self-Contained: A self-contained classroom is one in which the same group of students are taught multiple subjects by one educator throughout the day.  The setting is usually found at the elementary level, but can be utilized in other grade levels.  Self-contained classrooms are authorized by a Multiple Subject teaching credential.

  •  Departmentalized: A departmentalized classroom setting is one in which an instructor teaches a specific subject matter area to a group of students.  The instructor may teach specific content to several different groups of students during multiple classes throughout the day.  This is the classroom organization usually found in middle, junior, high school settings, but may also be found at the elementary level in classes such as art, physical education, science, mathematics, and music.

  • Special Education: A special education classroom setting may have one or more subjects taught to students who have been identified as needing special education (and related) services.  Instruction may be provided in any subject area, but only to students who have been identified as needing services in the primary disability area indicated by the instructor's credential.

  • Career Technical Education (CTE): A CTE classroom setting is one in which the curriculum has been designated as technical, trade, or vocational.  CTE courses are part of a program of study that involves a multiyear sequence of courses that integrates core academic knowledge with technical and occupational knowledge, and provides students with a pathway to postsecondary education and careers. CTE is a critical component of a broad and deep school curriculum that helps prepare all students to be career and college ready.  The CTE course provides relevance and real world content for academic studies.  CTE course content is based on 50% or more of the content based on the CTE Model Curriculum Standards adopted by the State Board of Education.

  • Adult Education: An adult education classroom is part of a public education program for adults 18 and older.  However, there are several sections of the Education Code that allow individuals under the age of 18 years to attend classes for adults (sections 52500, 52500.1, 52523, 52610, and 52610.5 are examples of such).

Determining Grade Levels and Settings Authorized by Current California Teaching Credentials

Use the chart below to identify which credentials authorize service in specific educational settings.

Note that this chart does not include scenarios where individuals may hold additional authorizations to serve, such as Supplementary and Subject Matter Authorizations.

SettingMultiple Subject CredentialSingle Subject CredentialEducation Specialist CredentialDesignated Subjects: Career Technical EducationDesignated Subjects: Adult Education 
General Education SettingsDepartmentalizedNonePK-12**NoneNoneNone
General Education SettingsSelf-ContainedPK-12NoneNoneNoneNone
General Education SettingsCore*5-85-8**NoneNoneNone
General Education SettingsTeam Teaching*PK-12PK-12**NoneNoneNone
General Education SettingsRegrouping*PK-12NoneNoneNoneNone
General Education SettingsCareer TechnicalNoneAgriculture, Business, Home Economics, and Industrial Arts/ Technology Education Authorizations OnlyNoneAny CTE course that falls within the authorized Industry Sector(s)None
General Education SettingsAdult EducationSelf-Contained Adult Classes OnlyAdult Classes in Authorized Subject Area OnlyNoneNoneAny Adult Education course that falls within the authorized Subject(s)
Special Education Settings***Self-ContainedNoneNonePK-22**NoneNone
Special Education Settings***DepartmentalizedNoneNonePK-22**NoneNone

*See General Education Teaching Assignments webpage for more information on these settings.

**Assignments are limited to the subject (for departmentalized settings) or disability area (for special education settings) listed on the credential.

***The IEP/IFSP/ITP indicates the special education instruction or services needed and how they must be provided to the student.  An educator must hold the appropriate credential(s) and authorizations(s) to all students for whom they provide special education instruction and/or services.  This statement is true no matter how or what setting the special education instruction/services are provided whether in a self-contained, departmentalized, push-in, pull-out, or consultation.


Course content (often called Subject matter or curriculum) refers to the subject area(s) being taught in a specific assignment.  Simply, an educator's area of certification must match the content being taught.  Employers are responsible for identifying the content of a course and aligning it with an appropriately credentialed individual.  Regardless of whether the course of study for a class is remediation, intervention, honors, or advanced study, the content of the class is the primary determining factor.

In most cases, there will be a credential with a subject authorization that clearly matches the content of each class. However, courses may be designed in a way that requires a teacher to hold more than one subject authorization to be appropriately assigned.  Dual content courses must be staffed by an educator who is authorized to teach all primary course content areas identified in the curriculum.  Courses with dual content may also be co-taught by two teachers who each hold credential authorizations in one of the primary content areas.

Determining Course Content at the Local Level

Determining a course's content is always a local level decision, made between the local educational agency (LEA) and the agency's Monitoring Authority (MA).  Typically, districts employ individuals (often in the position of Curriculum Coordinator) to develop courses that meet specific K-12 content standards for curriculum. These individuals can assist administrators and credential analysts/technicians with identifying the content of a course. The Commission cannot identify the content of a course for an LEA.

When trying to determine the content of ambiguous courses, the LEA and MA must consider several aspects of the course.  Many courses have interdisciplinary aspects to them, therefore, consider which subject matter is the primary focus of the curriculum. If one subject prevails, it is most likely that the primary course content falls within that subject.  The graduation credit and University of California A-G credit assigned to the course may also assist in determining the course content.  If no credit is assigned and the course does not fit into any subject area, then it may be an elective course.

CALPADS codes, which are course-identifying codes for reporting in the CDE's California Longitudinal Pupil Acheivement Data System (CALPADs), should be based on the content of the course.  Beginning in the 2019-20 school year, the Commission will use CALPADS course assignments for monitoring purposes.  Therefore, it is important for LEAs to accurately report all educator and service provider assignments in CALPADS.

Grade Level

The grade level of the students, as well as the targeted grade level for a course's curriculum, need to be considered when identifying appropriate assignments.  Currently issued California general, special, and career technical education credentials authorize service in grades K-12, including preschool and classes organized primarily for adults.  However, some credential authorizations limit the scope of the grade level and content the holder is able to teach.

Scope of Service

The scope of service provided by an individual is designated in the credential authorization statement.  Specific duties, such as evaluating and disciplining certificated personnel, are limited to certain credential types.  Employing agencies must be sure that the scope of services provided by an employee do not extend beyond those authorized by the credential.

Service Type

The type of service provided to students must be authorized by the service provider's credential.  There may be instances where local educational agencies (LEAs) can use contracted individuals to deliver services normally provided by a certificated individual.  LEAs who use contracted individuals are responsible for adhering to any pertinent statutory or regulatory requirements associated with their assignment.

English Learners

Instructional services provided to English learners (ELs) are often delivered by the student's classroom teacher who must hold an appropriate EL authorization for the scope of instruction provided.  Instructional services to ELs may also be provided in a separate departmentalized classroom.  Such instructional services may include English language development (ELD), specially designed academic instruction delivered in English (SDAIE), or content instruction delivered in the primary language.  Additional information on English learner assignments can be found on the English Learner webpage.  

Updated September 21, 2021