N.D., Utah Dispute Federal Findings on Teacher Quality

By Bess Keller — January 11, 2005 4 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

Teacher-licensing officials in two states plan to fight recent findings by the U.S. Department of Education that most of their elementary teachers are not “highly qualified” under the No Child Left Behind Act.

The findings could mean that veteran teachers in those states—North Dakota and Utah—and by implication, elsewhere, would have to offer evidence beyond their teaching licenses that they meet the federal standard. Many have two or more decades of classroom experience.

“We are working with the Utah attorney general on a response,” said Joan D. Patterson, the coordinator of educator licensing in the Utah education department. “I believe we are going simply to say, ‘No, we are compliant; … we have gone through the procedures you require.’ ”

North Dakota’s director of licensing, Janet Welk, said she and the educator-licensing board to which she reports are working to set up a qualifying procedure for the affected teachers that would meet federal requirements. But state officials are also, she said, pushing “basically to have the determination reversed.” At stake could be federal education funding, especially that earmarked for administering programs.

North Dakota and Utah licensing officials have ruled that at the elementary level a state teaching credential is sufficient to meet the federal standard. The licenses for elementary teachers are most often backed by an elementary education major from a state institution, which the licensing directors say represents more than enough learning of academic content to qualify the teachers.

But in recent “monitoring visits” to the two states, federal education officials told the directors that an elementary education major, experience, and even an advanced license are not necessarily enough. The determinations are still informal, and federal officials refused to discuss them until final reports are issued to the states, perhaps later this month. But Ms. Welk estimates that an additional half-dozen states will be in the same boat once the visits—now only a fifth completed—are done.

‘Completely Unacceptable’

The federal law calls for all teachers of “core” subjects to be highly qualified by the end of the 2005-06 school year. In general, teachers are deemed “highly qualified” when they hold at least a standard license and show command of the subjects they teach. Elementary teachers who were in the classroom when the law took effect are allowed to show mastery either by taking a subject-matter exam or meeting requirements set by their states that constitute a “high, objective, uniform state standard of evaluation,” or HOUSSE.

North Dakota did not set up a HOUSSE for its veteran elementary teachers, and Utah’s relies on a licensing-renewal process that requires positive evaluations of teachers’ work by their principals and satisfactory completion of college and school-district professional-development courses.

Both Ms. Welk in North Dakota and Ms. Patterson in Utah say they are confident that the small number of public institutions in their states that have prepared the majority of elementary teachers require enough courses in the subjects taught at that level to ensure mastery. And they both point to the national test scores of their elementary students as evidence, saying they are above average.

“I’d like my [U.S.] senators and representatives to look my deans of education dead in the eye and say, ‘Your programs are insufficient,’ ” Ms. Patterson said.

In North Dakota, all three members of the congressional delegation have already written the Department of Education to protest the determination and complain that federal officials blindsided the state.

“For state officials to be informed of this determination just 18 months short of the 2005-06 deadline is completely unacceptable,” wrote Sen. Kent Conrad and Rep. Earl Pomeroy in a joint letter. All three members of the delegation, who are Democrats,voted for the No Child Left Behind law.

No Surprise?

Nonetheless, in North Dakota, the state education department, which is separate from the board that controls teacher licensing, warned two years ago that federal officials were likely to seek individualized evidence of knowledge beyond an elementary education major, according to state Superintendent Wayne G. Sanstead.

“The legislature didn’t buy it, neither did the Education Standards and Practices Board, and certainly the teachers in general didn’t,” he said last week.

Many observers believe state officials have been set a difficult task in enforcing the “highly qualified” provision of the law, given their limited resources, tardy guidance from federal officials, and veteran teachers’ opposition.

“I can understand the states’ frustration,” said Jennifer Azordegan, an analyst with the Denver-based Education Commission of the States, a research and policy group that serves state education officials. But, she added, “I think a lot of people can agree that what the department is doing is still in the spirit of the law.”

A version of this article appeared in the January 12, 2005 edition of Education Week as N.D., Utah Dispute Federal Findings on Teacher Quality


Jobs October 2021 Virtual Career Fair for Teachers and K-12 Staff
Find teaching jobs and other jobs in K-12 education at the EdWeek Top School Jobs virtual career fair.
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Data Webinar
Using Integrated Analytics To Uncover Student Needs
Overwhelmed by data? Learn how an integrated approach to data analytics can help.

Content provided by Instructure
Classroom Technology Webinar How Pandemic Tech Is (and Is Not) Transforming K-12 Schools
The COVID-19 pandemic—and the resulting rise in virtual learning and big investments in digital learning tools— helped educators propel their technology skills to the next level. Teachers have become more adept at using learning management

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Federal Dept. of Ed., Florida Continue to Battle Over Ban on School Mask Mandates
Federal officials say they’ll intervene if the Florida Dept. of Ed. goes ahead with sanctions on districts with mask mandates.
Ana Ceballos, Miami Herald
2 min read
Florida Commissioner of Education Richard Corcoran speaks alongside Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, rear right, Fla. Sen. Manny Diaz Jr., left, state legislators, parents and educators, Tuesday, Sept. 14, 2021, at the Doral Academy Preparatory School in Doral, Fla.
Florida Commissioner of Education Richard Corcoran speaks alongside Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, rear right, Fla. Sen. Manny Diaz Jr., left, state legislators, parents and educators, Tuesday, Sept. 14, 2021, at the Doral Academy Preparatory School in Doral, Fla.
Wilfredo Lee/AP
Federal National School Board Group's Apology for 'Domestic Terrorism' Letter May Not Quell Uproar
The National School Boards Association voices "regret" for how it sought federal aid to address threats and harassment of school officials.
4 min read
Seminole County, Fla., deputies remove parent Chris Mink of Apopka from an emergency meeting of the Seminole County School Board in Sanford, Fla., Thursday, Sept. 2, 2021. Mink, the parent of a Bear Lake Elementary School student, opposes a call for mask mandates for Seminole schools and was escorted out for shouting during the standing-room only meeting.
Deputies remove a parent from an emergency meeting of the Seminole County School Board in Sanford, Fla., after the parent, who opposes a call for mask mandates for Seminole schools, shouts during the standing-room only meeting.
Joe Burbank/Orlando Sentinel via AP
Federal 'A Snitch Line on Parents.' GOP Reps Grill AG Over Response to Threats on School Officials
Attorney General Merrick Garland said his effort is meant to address violent threats against school boards, not to stifle parents' dissent.
5 min read
LEFT: Attorney General Merrick Garland speaks during a House Judiciary Committee oversight hearing of the Department of Justice on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, Oct. 21, 2021. RIGHT: Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, questions Attorney General Merrick Garland.
Attorney General Merrick Garland, left, speaks during a House Judiciary Committee oversight hearing of the U.S. Department of Justice on Capitol Hill on Thursday, questioned by Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, right, among others.
Greg Nash via AP, Andrew Harnik/AP
Federal School Boards, 'Domestic Terrorism,' and Free Speech: Inside the Debate
From critical race theory to COVID policy, the heat on schools has raised issues involving free speech and the safety of public officials.
13 min read
Brenda Stephens, a school board member with Orange County Public Schools in Hillsborough, N.C. has purchased a weapon and taken a concealed carry class over concerns for her personal safety.
Brenda Stephens, a school board member in Hillsborough, N.C., says board members face threats and bullying, an atmosphere far different from what she's encountered in years of board service.
Kate Medley for Education Week