Highly Qualified Teachers
NCLB specifies three basic requirements that public school teachers must meet to be highly qualified. First, teachers must hold a minimum of a bachelor’s degree from a college or university. Second, teachers must have full state teacher certification or licensure for the area in which they teach. Third, teachers must be able to demonstrate subject matter competency in the core academic subjects in which they teach. Teachers can demonstrate subject matter competency by passing a state-administered test in each of the core subjects they teach. The structure and content of these tests are determined by the individual states.
Elementary School Teachers
Elementary school teachers must hold at least a bachelor’s degree and be fully certified by the state in the area in which they teach. To demonstrate their knowledge and abilities, they also must pass a test of subject matter knowledge. For elementary school teachers, this means passing a test of subject knowledge and teaching skill in reading–language arts, writing, mathematics, and other areas of the basic elementary school curriculum.
Middle and Secondary School Teachers
Both middle school and high school teachers must meet the same NCLB highly qualified standards. Both must have at least a bachelor’s degree and be fully certified by the state in the area in which they teach. Because states may have different requirements for certification in middle school and in high school, teachers need to contact their state department of education to determine the appropriate certification requirements. To demonstrate their knowledge and abilities, they also must pass a state-administered test of subject matter knowledge. For middle and high school teachers, this means passing a test in each academic subject in which they teach. If a middle school or secondary school teacher provides instruction in more than one core academic subject, then he or she must be qualified in each area.
Special Education Teachers
According to IDEA 2004, special education teachers must meet the same highly qualified standards as general education teachers. This is true for special education teachers who are new to the profession and experienced special education teachers. Special education teachers must meet three general requirements to meet the highly qualified standard of NCLB. First, all special education teachers must have a bachelor’s degree. Second, special education teachers must have obtained a full state certification as a special education teacher or passed the state special education teacher licensing examination and hold a state license to teach as a special education teacher. This includes certification obtained through state-approved alternative routes to certification. States cannot waive special education certification or licensure requirements on an emergency, temporary, or provisional basis. Third, special education teachers who teach in elementary schools, middle schools, and high schools must pass a state-administered test of subject knowledge and teaching skill to demonstrate competency in the core academic subjects.
For elementary special education teachers this means competency in areas of the basic elementary school curriculum (e.g., reading–language arts, writing, mathematics). Special education teachers in middle and high school who provide instruction in core academic subjects must meet the requirements of NCLB for being highly qualified in every core academic subject they teach. This means they must take a state-administered test of content knowledge. This applies whether a special education teacher provides core academic instruction in a regular classroom, resource room, or another setting. For example, if a special education teacher provides reading instruction to students with learning disabilities, he or she must be highly qualified in reading.
Special education teachers in middle schools and high schools often teach many subjects to their students (e.g., math, social studies, science). Rather than specializing in one subject area like most secondary teachers, however, special education teachers often specialize in working with students with certain disabilities covered by the IDEA (e.g., children with autism, learning disabilities, or emotional disabilities). The NCLB requirements regarding being highly qualified in the core academic subjects they teach, nonetheless, apply to them. Therefore, if a special education teacher works with their students in core academic subjects, such as history, math, or science, he or she must be highly qualified in those subjects.
However, special education teachers may take part in some activities that do not require them to be highly qualified. Such activities include providing consultation to highly qualified teachers of core academic subjects, using behavioral supports and interventions, selecting appropriate academic accommodations, assisting students with study skills, and reinforcing instruction that a student has received in a core academic subject from a highly qualified teacher. Additionally, if a special education teacher team-teaches with a general education teacher in a core academic subject, the special education teacher must be certified or licensed to teach special education in the state but would not need to be certified in the subject as long as the general education teacher is certified in that subject.
Highly Qualified Teachers of Students with Significant Cognitive Disabilities
Special education teachers who teach core academic subjects to students with disabilities who are assessed using alternative achievement standards must meet the three requirements listed previously. That means teachers of students with severe disabilities, who typically will be assessed using alternate measures, need to hold a bachelor’s degree and full state certification in special education and demonstrate competency in areas of the basic elementary school curriculum. In the case of a special education teacher who works with students with significant cognitive disabilities but who provides instruction above the elementary level (e.g., teaches at the high school level), the teacher must demonstrate subject matter knowledge appropriate to the level of instruction needed to effectively teach students. This level of knowledge is determined by the state in which the teacher works.
Highly Qualified Teachers and State HOUSSE Standards
States have the option of developing a method by which teachers can demonstrate competency in each subject they teach on the basis of a high objective uniform state standard of evaluation (HOUSSE). This standard must provide objective and coherent information about a teacher’s attainment of core subject knowledge in the academic subjects in which he or she teaches. The state’s HOUSSE criteria, which must evaluate a teacher’s knowledge and ability, is available through each state’s Department of Education.
© ______ 2006, Merrill, an imprint of Pearson Education Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. The reproduction, duplication, or distribution of this material by any means including but not limited to email and blogs is strictly prohibited without the explicit permission of the publisher.
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