One of the more contentious issues surrounding the federal No Child Left Behind Act has been how the law’s “highly qualified teacher” requirements will affect experienced teachers who don’t have college majors in their subject areas. The issue is still far from resolved, but some of its dimensions are now becoming clearer.
Under the No Child Left Behind Act, all public school teachers must be highly qualified by the 2005-2006 school year. That essentially means holding a college degree, having full state certification, and demonstrating subject-area expertise. That last part can be accomplished either by having majored in the subject in college or by passing an approved content exam or meeting some other state-designated evaluative standard.
A number of news stories have reported on veteran teachers’ frustrations with these requirements. Going back to college or taking a mandatory test to prove their worth are clearly not popular options for experienced educators. Meanwhile, recent policy reports have lambasted the U.S. Department of Education for failing to provide clear guidance on other ways states can measure teachers’ content knowledge.
Even so, some of the states’ ideas for alternative measures are starting to come to light. According to a recent Education Week story, some criteria under consideration or already adopted by states include:
Less certain proposals include allowing teachers to meet the subject-knowledge standard by receiving satisfactory classroom evaluations or completing a reduced load of college-level courses in their subject.
The Education Department has promised to give additional guidance to states on the teacher-quality provisions, so teachers should be on the lookout for future developments in their states’ criteria. Once the details are worked out, schools and districts should be eager to work with teachers on meeting the new requirements.