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Congressional bill ending government shutdown includes teacher certification provision

Teach the Vote
Teach the Vote

Date Posted: 10/17/2013 | Author: Jennifer Mitchell, CAE

Last night Congress passed and President Obama signed into law a measure to end the 16-day government shutdown, provide appropriations through Jan. 15, 2014, and raise the debt ceiling through Feb. 7, 2014. As the dust settles in Washington, a few surprising provisions have been spotted in the new law. One such addition relates to the federal requirement under the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), also known as No Child Left Behind (NCLB), that teachers be "highly qualified." As originally enacted in 2001, the NCLB's definition of a "highly qualified" teacher covered only teachers who became certified through traditional routes, excluding those who were alternatively certified. Over the past few years, Congress has adopted a number of temporary measures to enable alternatively certified teachers to be treated as "highly qualified." ATPE has supported the extension of the definition to prevent those teachers from being penalized under NCLB. Last night's bill to avert a fiscal crisis enables alternatively certified teachers to continue to be treated as "highly qualified," at least until the end of the 2015-16 school year. Although some critics of alternative pathways to teaching have objected to these extensions of the "highly qualified" definition, this latest move is good news for thousands of alternatively certified teachers in Texas, who now make up the majority of newly certified teachers in our state. Of course, the "highly qualified" teacher requirements make up only a fraction of NCLB, which is long overdue for reauthorization. The failure of Congress to overhaul the law has forced Texas and most other states to seek waivers of many outdated and impractical aspects of NCLB. Members of the education community continue to hope that Congress will act in the near future to update and improve the law through reauthorization.


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