Future of Highly Qualified Teacher Rules Still Unclear

Last Updated: June 26, 2012

This article appeared in the June 2012 Rural Policy Matters.

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A Senate subcomittee has struck language from an Appropriations bill that would give Highly Qualified status to teachers who are in the process of completing alternative certification programs. Currently people who are in alternative route teacher training programs (but not traditional route programs) are considered Highly Qualified even before completing their training.

The Highly Qualified designation is important because the No Child Left Behind law requires school systems to notify the parents of students whose teachers are not "Highly Qualified."

Low-income students, students of color, English Language Learners, and students with disabilities are much more likely than other students to be taught be teachers who have not completed teacher training programs and by teachers with little prior teaching experience. 

Alternative track certification programs, including Teach for America, have pushed to have their trainees considered Highly Qualified.

In 2010 the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that giving Highly Qualified status to teachers who have not completed certification training violated No Child Left Behind. After that Congress added language to the Appropriations Bill that specifically requires alternative track teachers-in-training to be considered Highly Qualified. That provision will remain in effect through June 2013. 

Rural Trust along with nearly 100 other groups that make up the Coalition for Teaching Quality have been urging Congrees to remove the in-training language. (See prior RPM coverage here.) 

Earlier this month the Subcomittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies struck language from an appropriations bill that would have extended the current alternative track provision.

The definition of Highly Qualified teacher, however, is likely to remain controversial and many expect the language to be re-inserted. 

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The members of the Coalition for Teaching Quality


Read more from the June 2012 Rural Policy Matters.