Teacher Preparation

“Highly Qualified” Appeals Lawsuit Tossed

By Stephen Sawchuk — July 27, 2009 1 min read

Perhaps no one but Teach For America will care about this, but a district court last week threw out an appeal in the Renee v. Spellings lawsuit over the “highly qualified” teacher provisions in the No Child Left Behind Law.

The law requires teachers to be fully certified to be deemed highly qualified, but the U.S. Department of Education’s subsequent regulations allowed teachers in alternative-certification programs to be deemed highly qualified if they were making progress in their program and were on track to hold a teaching certificate within three years. A California group sued ED, lost the first round, and appealed.

The court dismissed the appeal mostly on procedural grounds, with ED arguing that the issue isn’t “redressable,” since California would likely just change its own definition to incorporate these teachers if the federal regulations were rendered invalid.

The brief is worth reading, though, for the dissenting opinion, which examines arguments that teachers in alternative routes are often concentrated in high-poverty, high-minority schools. That’s probably true and it’s a problem if the alternative routes in question aren’t of high quality. But as a lot of studies are pointing out these days, paper qualifications and the various routes teachers take into the profession are not always very strong predictors of how well teachers are going to do in the classroom.

Now, the federal government is pushing states to be more serious about figuring out how to identify effective teachers and to home in on what attributes make for successful teacher preparation.

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