'Highly Qualified Teacher' Designation Reconsidered By House Panel For TFA Corps Members, Student Teachers

House Panel To Consider Legislation That Would Revisit Definition Of 'Highly Qualified Teacher'

A U.S. House appropriations subcommittee is set to vote on legislation that would allow students still learning to be teachers to be considered “highly qualified,” according to The Washington Post's Answer Sheet blog.

Under the federal No Child Left Behind law, all students should have a highly qualified teacher, and all school districts must inform parents which teachers are not highly qualified.

But there has been much debate over the years regarding what constitutes a “highly qualified” educator. According to the Department of Education, to be deemed highly qualified, teachers must have a bachelor’s degree, full state certification or licensure and prove that they know each subject they teach.

Ahead of the 2005-06 deadline for states to ensure all their teachers were highly qualified, the Department offered three new areas of flexibility concerning this definition -- flexibility designed to “benefit teachers, local and state administrators, and … students.”

The proposed legislation, if approved, would ensure that teachers in training meet the “highly qualified” standard. This includes recent college graduates attending Teach for America’s five-week summer training institute.

A letter sent to the members of Congress urges them to extend the definition of a "highly qualified teacher," noting that participating in an alternative route to teacher certification does not preclude an educator from behing highly effective. The letter has been signed by nearly 100 national and regional organizations representing schools and students across the country. (Read the letters below.)

TFA receives millions of dollars in federal grants, and has lobbied Congress for the support. In 2010, Congress approved legislation that defined “highly qualified teachers” as including students still in teacher training programs. The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, however, twice ruled that this violated NCLB because it did not fully meet a credential standard set in that law, according to the Post.

There has been an effort to restore that definition, and House members are now addressing the issue as an amendment to the Elementary and Secondary Education Act.

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