Fact Sheet on Highly Qualified Provider

No Child Left Behind

NCLB Provisions on Teacher Qualifications

Studies offer compelling evidence that teacher quality is one of the most critical components of how well students achieve. For instance, studies in both Tennessee and Texas found that students who had effective teachers greatly outperformed those who had ineffective teachers. In the Tennessee study, students with highly effective teachers for 3 years in a row scored 50 percentage points higher on a test of math skills than did those whose teachers were ineffective (Sanders & Rivers, 1996). In recognition of the importance of effective teachers, the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) mandates that all teachers in core academic areas be "highly qualified" by the end of the 2005–2006 school year. It also requires that newly hired teachers-those hired after the first day of the 2002–2003 school year-in Title I programs or schools be highly qualified immediately. However, in Title I targeted assistance schools, only those teachers paid with Title I funds need to be highly qualified immediately.

Highly qualified is a specific term defined by NCLB. The law outlines a list of minimum requirements related to content knowledge and teaching skills that a highly qualified teacher would meet. However, recognizing the importance of state and local control of education, the law gives each state the flexibility to define the term consistent with NCLB and the unique needs of that state. State plans for meeting NCLB requirements must include annual, measurable objectives for each local school district and school. States must also report on their progress in annual report cards. Additionally, a district receiving Title I funds must send a notification to parents, informing them of their right to request information on the qualifications of their child's teacher(s).

Teachers Covered by NCLB

Any public school teacher, elementary or secondary, who teaches a core academic subject (English, reading, or language arts; math; science; history; civics and government; geography; economics; the arts; and foreign language) must be highly qualified in the subject(s) he/she teaches. Each state can determine its own definition of terms such as the arts. Special education teachers and teachers of English language learners must be highly qualified if they teach core academic subjects to their students. Speech-language pathologists and audiologists who teach a core academic subject(s) must also be highly qualified in those subjects, according to NCLB.

Provisions for State Definition of Highly Qualified

In general, under NCLB, a highly qualified teacher must have

  • a bachelor's degree,
  • full state certification (no emergency certification) and licensure as defined by the state,
  • demonstrated competency, as defined by the state, in each core academic subject he or she teaches.

The state has the freedom to define certification as it sees fit and can use this opportunity to streamline its certification requirements to the essential elements. It can also create alternative paths to certification. States may design options for teachers-especially experienced teachers of core academic subjects-to demonstrate competence. There are also requirements within the law to consider the differences between elementary, middle, and high school teachers, as well as between newly hired teachers and those with experience.

New Elementary School Teachers

Elementary school teachers who are new to the profession must demonstrate competency only by passing a rigorous state test on subject knowledge and teaching skills in reading or language arts, writing, mathematics, and other areas of the basic elementary school curriculum.

New Middle and High School Teachers

At the middle and high school levels, new teachers must demonstrate competency either by passing a rigorous state test in each subject they teach or by holding an academic major or course work equivalent to an academic major, an advanced degree, or advanced certification or credential.

Elementary, Middle, and High School Teachers With Experience

Teachers with experience must either meet the requirements for new teachers, or they may demonstrate competency based on a system designed by the state. NCLB recognizes that many teachers who have experience may already have the qualifications necessary to be deemed highly qualified. The law allows teachers to take a subject matter test (as determined by the state) or demonstrate competency through the state system of "high, objective, uniform state standard of evaluation (HOUSSE)." In addition, middle and high school teachers may demonstrate competency, if they have a major (or its equivalent) or advanced credential in the subject they teach. Under the new guidelines, states may streamline this evaluation process by developing a method for current, multi-subject teachers to demonstrate through one process that they are highly qualified in each of their subjects and maintain the same high standards in subject matter mastery.

Highly Qualified Requirements for Long- and Short-Term Substitute Teachers

Substitutes take the place of the teacher and, therefore, play a critical role in the classroom and the school. It is vital that they be able to perform their duties well. Although short-term substitutes do not need to meet NCLB highly qualified teaching requirements, the U.S. Department of Education strongly recommends that long-term substitute teachers meet the requirements. In addition, as states and districts establish a definition for long-term substitutes, they should bear in mind that the law requires that parents be notified if their child has received instruction for 4 or more consecutive weeks by a teacher who is not highly qualified.

NCLB Requirements for Paraprofessionals or Teachers' Aides

NCLB states that teachers' aides may provide instructional support services only under the direct supervision of a teacher. In addition, the law allows teachers' aides to facilitate instruction only if they have met certain academic requirements. They must have at least an associate's degree or 2 years of college, or they must meet a rigorous standard of quality through a formal state or local assessment-knowledge of, and the ability to assist in instructing, as appropriate. New paraprofessionals hired after January 8, 2002, must meet these requirements. Paraprofessionals hired on or before January 8, 2002, must meet these requirements no later than January 8, 2006.

Paraprofessionals or aides do not need to meet the requirements, if their role does not involve facilitating instruction. A paraprofessional does not need to meet these requirements, if the paraprofessional (a) is proficient in English and a language other than English and acts as a translator to enhance the participation of limited English proficient children or (b) has instructional support duties that consist solely of conducting parental involvement activities.

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