Washington, D.C. (August 21, 2007) Today, a coalition of parents, students, community groups, and legal advocates sued the United States Department of Education and Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings for violating the teacher quality provisions of the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act. In the first lawsuit of its kind, the coalition argues that a Department regulation has created a major loophole in NCLB that defies the will of Congress and harms students nationwide by defining teachers still in training as “highly qualified.” The following is a statement by Dr. Jane West, Vice President of Government Relations & Advocacy for the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education on the Filing of Renee v. Spellings.
NCLB is intended to ensure that all students have highly qualified teachers. Yet, paradoxically, the Department of Education allows uncertified candidates in alternate route preparation programs to assume the functions of a teacher for up to three years while they are seeking certification. NCLB is intended to reduce the number of out-of-field teachers and uncertified teachers in the P-12 classrooms, yet the Department of Education has created this large loophole to allow uncertified teachers who haven’t completed a preparation program to receive a highly-qualified designation. There is nothing “highly-qualified” about being unprepared and uncertified. It is the students with the greatest need who are disproportionately affected by this travesty, with more of these not-yet-certified teachers in their classrooms. Parents are not being fully informed of the real status of these teachers who are not yet credentialed to serve as teachers.
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”. There are five components that we know are essential to any high quality preparation program. These include 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. 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.
AACTE supports this law suit because it addresses a basic tenet of NCLB, every child deserves a good teacher. The federal government needs to close this loophole that allows unprepared and uncertified teachers to enter the classroom and be called highly-qualified.
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