Teaching assistants fill an important position in the classroom. To ensure that teaching assistants meet the requirements set forth by the No Child Left Behind Act, several states require that assistants be certified. Teaching assistant certification is divided into four levels, with level 1 being the basic certification that teaching assistants need to be allowed to instruct students and otherwise interact with them in a classroom setting.
Teaching assistants must have at least a high school diploma or its equivalent to qualify for level 1 teaching assistant certification. An individual applying for a level 1 certificate can have a higher level of education, such as an associate's or bachelor's degree.
A state-issued test is required before an applicant can receive her level 1 teaching assistant certification. The specifics of the test vary depending on the state issuing it, but competence must be shown in areas such as English and mathematics to pass the test. A fee or enrollment in a certification class that covers the fee is required to take the test.
To provide a safe environment for students, anyone who works directly with children in schools must be fingerprinted and have a background check done. Anyone who is found to have a criminal record involving violent crime, drug charges or sexual offenses is unable to work in a school environment. The applicant seeking a level 1 teaching assistant certification will typically have to cover the cost of the fingerprinting and background check at their local police department or sheriff's office.
Level 1 teaching assistant certification is not a permanent certification; the certificate is typically valid for one to three years depending on the state that issues it. Some states allow the certificates to be renewed once, while others allow multiple renewals. In several states, renewal requires proof of career goals such as the attendance of inservices, additional educational study at the college level or enrollment in programs to help the applicant receive additional certifications such as level 2, level 3 or pre-professional certificates.