‘Highly Qualified’ Teacher Provisions Excised From ESEA Draft; ‘Equitable Distribution’ Stays

By Stephen Sawchuk — April 08, 2015 2 min read
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As you probably know, Senate education leaders yesterday released a bipartisan draft rewrite of the No Child Left Behind Act. (Make sure to check out colleague Lauren Camera’s great run-down.)

The new bill would be christened the Every Child Achieves Act. If it gains Congressional support, what implications might it have for federal teacher policy?

Read on, Teacher Beat fans.

• The big news is that the draft eliminates the law’s “highly qualified” teacher provisions, which required states to staff all core-content classes with teachers who hold a bachelor’s degree, state certification, and have demonstrated subject-matter competency. That provision had run its course to a degree—states were expected to be at 100% for nearly a decade. In all, this change would largely get the feds out of certification issues.

• The elimination of HQT doesn’t mean that states would be off the hook on reporting about their teachers. The draft still requires states to disclose teacher and principal qualifications, disaggregated by high-/low-poverty and high-/low-minority schools. Data points would include the proportion of inexperienced teachers, teachers on emergency credentials or teaching out of field, and so on.

• The requirement that states monitor the equitable distribution of teachers is slightly modified and even expanded. This provision has been difficult to enforce, but it would stay in the law, a symbolically important win for civil rights groups. The draft would require states to show how low-income and minority children aren’t disproportionately served by “ineffective, out of field, and inexperienced” teachers and other educators, and to publicly report the measures the states are using to solve the problem.

• The law’s major state grant to support teacher quality activities, particularly professional development, would remain. Athough the list of allowable activities is a little different from current law, the thrust is the same: It’s a flexible funding stream. But there are some new requirements that such activities be carried out using evidence-based methods, meaning they have some research backing or at least a rationale based on research.

• States would not be required to set up teacher-evaluation systems, although that is an allowable use of funds.

• The law authorizes a version of a differentiated pay program similar to the Teacher Incentive Fund, this time expanded to include principals.

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A version of this news article first appeared in the Teacher Beat blog.