In a controversial decision, the Ninth Circuit has ruled that a federal regulation allowing participants in alternative certification programs, who are merely working toward full state certification, actually fail to meet Congress’s definition of Highly Qualified in the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, currently known as No Child Left Behind.
In ruling for the students, the Ninth Circuit discussed the evidence presented that 41% of “interns” in California teach in 25% of schools with the highest concentration of minority students, where only 2 % of “interns” teach in the 10% of schools with the lowest concentration of minority students.
One popular program which would be impacted by this ruling is Teach for America. TFA teachers are almost never fully certified, in any state, before their arrival in the classroom. Instead, they engage in summer programs, prior to their teaching assignment and participate in ongoing professional development during their tenure.
CEC has long been concerned about the number of special educators who are not fully certified. Currently, the National Center to Improve Recruitment and Retention of Qualified Personnel for Children with Disabilities reports there are currently 45,000 uncertified special education teachers. To address this crisis, CEC has recommendations on what alternative certification programs should look like if their candidates are allowed to teach before reaching full state certification on page two of its ESEA Reauthorization Recommendations. With the recent Congressional and national focus on the importance of the quality of teachers, this is likely to continue to be a matter of hot debate.