Last week, tucked deeply away in the budget legislation that restored the federal government to its full operational status, Congress included a controversial provision allowing teachers still enrolled in their preparation programs to be called “highly qualified” through the 2015-2016 school year.
CEC, together with the Coalition for Teaching Quality (CTQ) – which is comprised of 96 national, state, and local organizations representing a broad cross-section of civil rights, disability, parent, student, community and education groups – has advocated against calling teachers-in-training “highly qualified” and has urged for greater public reporting on this issue.
Because of this federal loophole, the term ‘highly qualified’ applies equally to teachers who have completed their preparation program and to those who have had minimal training, sometimes only a few weeks of preparation. Not only is the term “highly qualified” a misnomer for those who have had little training, but its use conveys expertise and skill to families.
According to data from California, nearly a quarter of the state’s teachers-in-training are in predominately low-income schools whose students are 98-100% students of color and approximately half of the state’s teachers-in-training are teaching students with disabilities. CEC has asked the U.S. Department of Education to make similar data available to families and the public in every state.
For several years, CEC has called on Congress to ensure that in any reauthorization of NCLB/ESEA it required alternative route to certification programs to be rigorous and of high quality. There are shortages of special education teachers in every state in the nation and thus many options are needed to fill these spots. Thus, CEC does not oppose alternative route to certification programs, but insists they must be rigorous.
This is not the first time Congress voted to expand the definition of “highly qualified” to include teachers-in-training. You might remember reading about this issue in this Policy Insider story from January 2011 which recounted the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals case and this PI story from February 2011 which called for greater transparency in knowing whether teachers have completed or are still enrolled in their training programs.