States to Get Help On Teacher Mandates

 

Teams of federal education experts will visit all 50 states starting later this summer to make sure they're on track to meet a new requirement that all classrooms have "highly qualified" teachers by 2005-2006.

To be a highly qualified under the federal No Child Left Behind law, teachers must have graduated from a four-year college, hold state teacher certification and "demonstrate competency" in their subject area. They can demonstrate competency by having majored in the subject they're teaching, passing a state test or doing additional academic course work.

"States are going to be struggling with the teacher quality element of the [No Child Left Behind] law," U.S. Secretary of Education Rod Paige said in a July 15 briefing with reporters. The department declined to identify which states will get visits from the teams of experts first.

A new U.S. Education Department report illustrates how difficult it will be for states to pass muster. Only about half of the English and math secondary teachers and 55 percent of science and social science secondary teachers in this country are considered "highly qualified."

These teachers have at least a bachelor's degree, state teacher certification and a major in the subject they teach, the department's Meeting the Highly Qualified Teachers Challenge report said.

A majority of states (32) now require teachers who apply for licenses to take tests to measure their knowledge and skills in the subject they want to teach. But the minimum passing scores for those tests tend to be low, the report said.

Paige said his department will work with states on the teacher quality standards just as it did to help them develop yardsticks for measuring annual student progress. All 50 states met that requirement in June, Paige said.

The department said the teams would provide "guidance and feedback on state efforts, address state challenges and provide useful information from other states about promising practices in the field." The department also said it is working on a "tool kit" to help educators better understand No Child Left Behind.

Paige also defended the amount of money the administration is giving states to implement the 2002 federal law, a sore point for some state officials who complain that No Child Left Behind is an unfunded mandate. "States are supposed to spend their own money," Paige said.

Paige also said the federal government is doling out more money for education. The federal government now provides 9 percent of the total amount, per student, spent on education, up from 7 percent just two years ago, he said.

 
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