Rules Clarify Changes On Teacher, Paraprofessional Qualifications
The Department of Education sought last week to clarify new federal requirements on teachers and paraprofessionals, an aspect of last year's federal education law that has had state and district officials especially nervous.
The draft regulations address ambitious provisions of the "No Child Left Behind" Act of 2001 that dictate the kind of credentials and content knowledge that will be demanded of many teachers before they reach the classroom. The law, a revision of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, mandates that all public school teachers meet a definition of "highly qualified" by the 2005- 06 school year, and that teachers whose salaries come from federal Title I funds meet the requirements this coming school year.
Generally speaking, to be considered highly qualified under the draft rules, a teacher must hold a bachelor's degree and either have obtained full state teacher certification or have passed the state licensing exam and hold a license to teach. The rules also include more specific requirements for elementary teachers and for middle and high school teachers. The requirements for new teachers are somewhat different from those for teachers already in the classroom.
Paraprofessionals supported with Title I funds also now face a higher standard. In general, such aides must have done one of the following: completed at least two years of college; obtained an associate's degree or higher degree; or passed a state or local evaluation to demonstrate knowledge and ability to assist in teaching reading, writing, and mathematics.
Newly hired aides must meet the requirements immediately; those hired before the law was signed in January must meet them within four years.
Here are some highlights from the draft regulations that seek to clarify issues where, according to the Education Department, the law was ambiguous:
- The qualification requirements do not apply to a teacher who does not teach a core academic subject, or to a provider hired to meet the law's mandate on supplemental educational services.
- By the start of the 2002-03 school year, any teacher supported with Title I money—whether in a targeted-assistance program or in a school where Title I is used for a schoolwide program that is not limited to needy students—must meet the new qualifications.
- A teacher meets the "alternative route" certification requirements by making satisfactory progress toward full certification as prescribed by the state.
- For states with probationary, provisional, or initial certification for new teachers, such designations meet the full certification and licensure requirements under federal law.
- The paraprofessional requirements apply only to those performing instructional-support duties and not to employees performing strictly noninstructional duties.
- The requirements apply to Title I aides both in targeted-assistance programs and in schoolwide programs.
- The rules define what constitutes "direct supervision" of paraprofessionals by teachers. The ESEA, to avoid situations in which aides literally take over a class, now requires such supervision.
Vol. 21, Issue 43, Page 36