Veteran teachers take note: States’ alternate routes to becoming “highly qualified” under the No Child Left Behind Act might not be on the books much longer.
A provision of the law called the High Objective Uniform State Standard of Evaluation, which allows states to use their own systems to determine which experienced teachers are highly qualified, is likely to hit the cutting-room floor when NCLB is reauthorized, which could happen as early as next year.
In the meantime, the U.S. Department of Education is pressuring states to limit the option, which was designed to give educators already working in schools a way to demonstrate their content knowledge without having a degree in their teaching subject or passing an exam.
In May, the department told states to develop plans for restricting HOUSSE usage by recent hires to three very narrow circumstances. In September, though, Education Secretary Margaret Spellings backed off that order and announced that the phaseout would be delayed until NCLB is reauthorized.
HOUSSE requirements differ significantly from state to state. West Virginia, for example, allows teachers to become highly qualified based on an administrator’s evaluation, while Pennsylvania uses a point system that gives credits for college coursework, years in the classroom, and other experience.
Spellings has complained that some states’ alternatives fail to ensure teachers’ subject-matter knowledge. Too often, she says, schools use HOUSSE as a shortcut to get the “highly qualified” designation for experienced teachers assigned to new subjects they don’t know well. She also claims “the vast majority” of experienced teachers have already completed the process.
But Joel Packer, the National Education Association’s director of education policy and practice, argues that in states that have only recently finalized their HOUSSE programs, veteran educators haven’t had enough time to make use of the option.
Those teachers may want to take advantage of the HOUSSE rules as soon as possible because, for now at least, the writing seems to be on the wall.
A version of this article appeared in the December 01, 2006 edition of Teacher Magazine