No Child Left Behind: New Issues in Education (page 3)

By — Pearson Allyn Bacon Prentice Hall
Updated on Jul 20, 2010

Highly Qualified Teachers

Another result of the NCLB legislation is that students are now assured of having teachers that are "highly qualified" to teach in their subject area (King-Sears, 2005). Being highly qualified typically means having a degree in the subject area you teach, and NCLB limits the definition of that term exclusively to content-area subjects (King-Sears, 2005). While this would seem to be simple enough for educators who teach specific subject areas in departmentalized schools (e.g., a secondary history teacher should have both a teaching certificate and extensive educational course work specific to history), this becomes more problematic when applied to special educators. Traditionally, special educators have provided expertise in instructional pedagogy rather than in particular content areas, and thus, the definition of "highly qualified" holds serious implications for many special educators (King-Sears, 2005). In point of fact, many special educators, in both resource and/or inclusive class placements, find themselves teaching virtually every subject in the school curriculum. According to the new standard of "highly qualified," teachers who have been teaching content area for decades are no longer considered highly qualified. In some cases, teachers have been told to go back to school to take content courses in reading, math, history, or science to get highly qualified! Of course, it is unrealistic to expect this group of special educators to complete a full undergraduate major in each subject area. Perhaps nothing has so impacted the education of special education teachers as this "highly qualified" provision within the No Child Left Behind legislation, and various states are developing -different ways for teachers in special education to earn additional course credits or participate in various workshops to become "highly qualified" in subjects they teach.

As a practitioner in the field, you should discuss this issue of "highly qualified" with your undergraduate or graduate adviser and find out how districts in your state are implementing this provision. Likewise, you should ask questions about the "highly qualified" requirements when applying for jobs in various school districts. There is some flexibility on the part of some educational administrators in some districts but not in others, and this may well influence where you choose to teach.

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