ED sued over teacher-quality rules

From: eschoolnews
A group of parents, students, and community organizations is suing the U.S. Department of Education (ED) and Education Secretary Margaret Spellings over the “highly qualified teacher” provision of the federal No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB). The lawsuit, filed in a federal court in San Francisco Aug. 21, could affect how schools hire and place teachers in high-need areas in particular, such as the so-called “STEM” fields of science, technology, engineering and math. NCLB mandates that only teachers who have a full state certification and a degree in their teaching field be considered “highly qualified.” ED, however, has issued rules that allow states to label anyone currently participating in an alternative-certification program while teaching as “highly qualified,” according to the plaintiffs. The department’s rules are intended to make it easier for schools to hire non-educators to fill hard-to-staff subject areas in which specialized expertise is required, such as in the STEM disciplines or less-common foreign languages. These professionals have up to three years to gain certification, and they’re allowed to teach–and are considered “highly qualified” under the law–while pursuing their credentials. Among the groups supporting the lawsuit is the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education, which represents the nation’s teacher colleges and is an outspoken critic of alternative-certification programs. “The American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education believes that all teachers should be prepared in a high-quality preparation program and complete that program prior to being designated as highly qualified,” the group said in a statement. “There are five components that we know are essential to any high-quality preparation program. These [are] having selective admissions standards, a curriculum that addresses the essential knowledge and skills needed to be an effective teacher, preparing teachers to teach a diverse range of students, a supervised internship, and a performance assessment that gauges the candidates’ knowledge of subject matter and ability to convey that knowledge effectively.” The group concluded: “That we would put anyone in the classroom who has not completed a rigorous preparation such as this is not in keeping with the true mission of NCLB.”

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