A group of California parents, students, and community organizations is suing the U.S. Department of Education for allowing uncertified alternative-route teachers to be designated as “highly qualified” under the No Child Left Behind Act.
The federal law requires teachers to have full state licensure, in addition to a bachelor’s degree and evidence that they know each subject they teach. But department regulations allow uncertified candidates in alternative-route programs to teach for up to three years while seeking certification.
Backers of the lawsuit, Renee v. Spellings, which was filed last week in U.S. District Court in San Francisco, said they are concerned because many of those teachers end up in schools that are low-performing and enroll higher concentrations of students of color.
“These are teachers who have come through one month of boot camp in an alternative program and are thrown into classrooms as full-time teachers,” said Wynn Hausser, a spokesman for Public Advocates, the San Francisco public-interest law firm representing the plaintiffs.
He contended that the regulation at issue is a loophole intended to give Congress “a rosier picture of how close schools are to meeting the standards” of the NCLB law, which requires every classroom in which a core subject is taught to be staffed by a highly qualified teacher.
Mr. Hausser’s group maintains that 100,000 teachers currently in the nation’s classrooms are labeled as “highly qualified” even though they are still in training.
Obscuring the Truth?
The lawsuit drew support from members of the teacher education community.
“The Department of Education has created this large loophole to allow uncertified teachers who haven’t completed a preparation program to receive a highly qualified designation,” Jane West, the vice president of government relations for the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education, said in a statement.
Samara Yudof, a spokeswoman for the Education Department, said it would have no comment.
The plaintiffs are asking the court to void the regulation allowing teachers in alternative routes to be deemed highly qualified.
“My son’s 1st grade teacher is still taking classes necessary to obtain her full teaching credential,” Maribel Heredia, one of the plaintiffs, said in a statement. “I think it’s wrong that she is called highly qualified.”