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NSTA Legislative Update

March 22, 2004

On Monday, March 15, the U.S. Department of Education issued new rules that supposedly will allow greater flexibility in implementing the highly qualified teacher (HQT) provision of No Child Left Behind (NCLB).

Under the new policy, teachers in eligible rural districts who teach multiple subjects and who are highly qualified in at least one subject area have three years to become highly qualified in the additional subjects they teach. While teachers are in the process of becoming highly qualified in multiple subject areas, they must also be “provided with professional development, intense supervision or structured mentoring.”

Newly hired rural teachers would have until their third year of teaching to become highly qualified.  This is different from current law that says that teachers new to any district must already be highly qualified.

In addition, under the new provisions states may determine, based on their certification requirements, to allow science teachers to demonstrate they are highly qualified either in a broad science field or individual fields of science (which are defined by the Department of Education as physics, biology, or chemistry).

Finally, states can now streamline the evaluation process by allowing current teachers teaching multiple subjects to demonstrate through one High Objective Uniform State Standard of Evaluation (HOUSEE) process that they are highly qualified in each of the subject fields instead of being subjected to a HOUSSE process for every subject.

As you know, NCLB requires that all teachers of core subject areas be highly qualified by 2005-06.  To be deemed highly qualified, teachers must have: 1) a bachelor's degree, 2) full state certification or licensure, and 3) prove that they know each subject they teach.

Middle and high school teachers must prove that they know the subject they teach with: 1) a major in the subject they teach, 2) credits equivalent to a major in the subject, 3) passage of a state-developed test, 4) a HOUSSE for current teachers 5) an advanced certification from the state, or 6) a graduate degree.

The HOUSEE may consist of a combination of teaching experience, professional development, and knowledge in the subject garnered over time in the profession. 

In making the announcement on Monday, Secretary Paige said “we discovered that many states were not using the full flexibility in the law, especially to help their middle school and experienced teachers demonstrate that they are highly qualified. In addition, many were under the mistaken impression that all veteran teachers had to either go back to school or take a test.”

“Today, we are responding with changes that make sense, supporting state efforts to strengthen teacher quality and aiding the professionals in the classroom, while also ensuring that the highest standards for qualified teachers—so imperative to student success—remain intact.”

Paige also announced that the Department would soon unveil a new website dedicated to the implementation of the HQT provision, and plans to convene a National Teacher Summit later this year.