Highly Qualified Teachers
The U.S. Department of Education has mandated that all teachers of core academic subjects in the classroom be "highly qualified." Through the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB), there are three essential criteria for a teacher to be deemed highly qualified: attaining a bachelor's degree or higher in the subject that the teacher teaches; obtaining full state teacher certification; and demonstrating knowledge in the subject(s) taught (U.S. Department of Education, 2006). According to the U.S. Department of Education (2006), the highly qualified teacher (HQT) is one of the most important factors in student achievement. Berry, Hoke and Hirsch (2004) state, "Consensus is growing among school reformers that teaches are the most important school-related determinant of student achievement" (p. 698).
Keywords Bias; Core Academic Subjects; Demonstration of Competency; Elementary and Secondary Act of 1965; High, Objective, Uniform State Standard of Evaluation (HOUSSE); Highly qualified teachers; No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 (NCLB); Out-of-Field Teaching; Retention; State Requirements; TEACHact; Title II
The U.S. Department of Education has mandated that all teachers of core academic subjects in the classroom be "highly qualified." Core academic subjects are English, reading or language arts, mathematics, science, foreign languages, civics and government, economics, arts, history, and geography. Through the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB), there are three essential criteria for a teacher to be deemed highly qualified:
• Attaining a bachelor's degree or higher in the subject that the teacher teaches;
• Obtaining full state teacher certification; and
• Demonstrating knowledge in the subject(s) taught (U.S. Department of Education, 2006).
Berry, Hoke, and Hirsch (2004) state that requiring highly qualified teachers in every classroom "offers unprecedented ways to reshape teacher preparation in ways that finally produce the gains in student achievement that reformers have long sought" (p. 685).
In 2001, the Senate and House of Representatives were charged with the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965. The reauthorization of this act was called the No Child Left Behind Act, keeping intact basic principles of the original act, with the addition of new regulations that identify districts and schools per state that are most in need of highly qualified teachers in Pre-K through university (Kysilka, 2003). The act was amended in 2002, to assure that "all children have a fair, equal and significant opportunity to obtain a high-quality education" (U.S. Department of Education, 2002). The TEACHact, or Teacher Excellence for All Children Act was proposed by the U.S. Representatives George Miller (D-California) and Howard McKeon (R-California) and added provisions to the current Title II of the NCLB law. Title II is specifically directed to teacher-quality issues. TEACHact provides bonuses up to $12,500 for outstanding highly qualified teachers who transfer to high-poverty and low-achieving schools and work for a minimum of four years. The act also provides similar incentives for principals who transfer, as well. Under this act, master teachers can supplement their salaries by up to $10,000 a year if they agree to mentor new teachers (Hoff, Keller, Zehr, & Klein, 2007).
According to the U.S. Department of Education (2006), a highly qualified teacher (HQT) is one of the most important factors in student achievement. Berry, Hoke and Hirsch (2004) state, "Consensus is growing among school reformers that teachers are the most important school-related determinant of student achievement" (p. 698). Teacher quality results from teaching experience; the quality of the preparation programs; the type of certification; coursework taken in preparation for the profession; and the test scores of the teacher (Thompson & Smith, 2004-2005).
The 6-Point Plan
The U.S. Department of Education monitors each state to determine if it is meeting its goals of providing highly qualified teachers in all subject-matter classrooms, including classrooms in under-performing schools and high-poverty communities (U.S. Department of Education, 2006). States must publicly report what they are doing to improve teacher quality (Berry, Hoke, & Hirsch, 2004). For those states that did not meet or show a good-faith effort of providing highly qualified teachers in every core classroom by the academic year 2006-2007, the U.S. Department of Education provided a Six-Point Protocol for a Successful Plan to meet the guidelines. The Plan includes:
• A thorough analysis of the data identifying teachers that do not meet the HQT requirements;
• Steps local districts will take to help teachers quickly attain HQT status;
• Technical assistance, programs, and resources that can be offered to achieve these goals;
• Actions that states will face if they do not attain goals;
• Alternative methods for teachers to attain HQT status; and,
• Steps to ensure that minority students and students from low-income families are not disproportionately taught by inexperienced or unqualified teachers (U.S. Department of Education, 2006).
Funds are available for those states that are in the process of meeting HQT status. These funds are as follows:
• The President's 2007 Budget, to help states meet their teacher quality requirements.
• Title I Funding, for school districts that are required to use five percent of their Title I funds for HQT progress.
• Teacher Incentive Fund, providing financial incentives to teachers for improved achievement in high-poverty schools.
• Loan Forgiveness, for up to $17,500 loan forgiveness for highly qualified math and science teachers who choose to serve low-income schools (U.S. Department of Education, 2006).
Meeting Highly Qualified Status
The U.S. Department of Education has provided areas of flexibility for those teachers applying for highly qualified teacher status. For example, The HOUSSE (High, Objective, Uniform State Standard of Evaluation) for current teachers provides for certain provisions for experienced teachers to demonstrate subject-matter competency that recognizes experience, expertise, and professional training garnered over their professional lives. They are not required to get a degree in every subject they teach to demonstrate competency. Middle school teachers also are provided by flexible rulings, as the state may approve rigorous content-area assessments to determine if a middle school teacher should be awarded HQT status. Under these flexible rulings, states may develop teacher tests for subjects and levels of knowledge needed for effective instruction. Additionally, special education teachers are not required to demonstrate content area competency if they are not providing direct instruction in core academic areas (Department of Education, 2006).
To provide further opportunities to meet HQT status, the U.S. Department of Education has expanded its areas of flexibility to include rulings for rural teachers, science teachers, and current multi-subject teachers. Rural teachers who are highly qualified in one subject area will have three years to become highly qualified in any additional subjects they teach. Science teachers can demonstrate that they are highly qualified in either a general science or in individual fields of science (such as physics, biology or chemistry). Additionally, the U.S. Department of Education also provides flexibility in allowing states to evaluate current, multi-subject teachers to demonstrate through one process that they are highly qualified in each subject area (U.S. Department of Education, 2006).
The NCLB is not without controversy. Thompson and Smith cite a 1996 report by The National Commission on Teaching and America's Future which outlines the concern that teachers need more than content knowledge to be highly qualified; in fact, the report contends that teachers need a blend of pedagogy and content to be successful teachers. Teacher candidates can be highly effective if they "develop practices that accommodate student diversity, develop the habits of reflective practitioners and gain a fuller understanding of the teacher's changing roles" (Thompson & Smith, 2005, p. 74). Berry, Hoke, and Hirsch (2004) state that all teachers should be required to know how students learn and how to manage that learning. Teachers can do this best as they learn "to manage classrooms; develop standards-based lessons; assess student work fairly and appropriately; work with special needs students...
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