Highly Qualified Teachers

Highly Qualified Teachers


A-1. What is the definition of a highly qualified teacher?

The requirement that teachers be highly qualified applies to all public elementary or secondary school teachers employed by a local educational agency who teach a core academic subject (see question A-2, below).  “Highly qualified” means that the teacher:

  • 1.  Has obtained full State certification as a teacher or passed the State teacher licensing examination and holds a license to teach in the State, and does not have certification or licensure requirements waived on an emergency, temporary, or provisional basis
  • 2.   Holds a minimum of a bachelor’s degree; and
    3.   Has demonstrated subject-matter competency in each of the academic subjects in which the teacher teaches, in a manner determined by the State and in compliance with Section 9101(23) of ESEA.
    The statutory definition includes additional elements that apply somewhat differently to teachers new and not new to the profession, and to elementary, middle, and secondary school teachers.  The complete definition of a “highly qualified” teacher is in Section 9101(23) of the ESEA (Appendix A) and in Section 602(10) of the IDEA (Appendix D).

A-2. What is meant by “core academic subjects”?

The term “core academic subjects” means English, reading or language arts, mathematics, science, foreign languages, civics and government, economics, arts, history, and geography [Section 9101(11)].  While the statute includes the arts in the core academic subjects, it does not specify which of the arts are core academic subjects; therefore, States must make this determination.

A-3. How does the State determine if an elementary, middle, or secondary school teacher who is not new to the profession is highly qualified?

The SEA is responsible for developing and approving methods for ensuring that teachers have, in addition to a bachelor’s degree and full State certification, subject-matter competency and teaching skills.  Teachers can demonstrate their competency and skills by (a) passing a rigorous State academic subject-matter test, (b) in the case of middle or secondary school teachers, completing an academic major, graduate degree, coursework equivalent to an academic major, or advanced certification or credentialing, or (c) using the high, objective, uniform State standard of evaluation (HOUSSE) (see questions A-9 through A-12) [Section 9101(23)].  [See questions A-4 and A-5 for a discussion of the State academic subject-matter test.]

A-4. How does the State determine if elementary school teachers who are new to the profession have the subject-matter knowledge and teaching skills that are needed of highly qualified teachers?

To meet the requirements of the law, teachers at the elementary level who are new to the profession must (1) hold at least a bachelor’s degree, (2) be licensed by the State, and (3) demonstrate, by passing a rigorous State test, subject knowledge and teaching skills in reading, writing, mathematics, and other areas of the basic elementary curriculum [Section 9101(23)(B)(i)].  While the Department is always willing to respond to inquiries from States, it is the responsibility of the SEA to identify and approve specific tests.  We recommend that each SEA use the guidelines below to evaluate any subject-matter tests it may consider using for this purpose.

The test may consist of a State-required certification or licensing test (or tests) in reading, writing, math, and other areas of the basic elementary school curriculum.  The content of the test should be rigorous and objective and serve as a high, uniform standard that each candidate is expected to meet or exceed. 

The purpose of the test is to establish the candidate’s knowledge of content and teaching skills in reading, writing, math, and other areas of the basic elementary curriculum.  Keeping an explanation on file of how the tests meet the criteria required by the law would be one way for the State to demonstrate it is in compliance with the Section 9101(23) requirements.

A-5. How does the State determine if middle and high school teachers who are new to the profession have a high level of competence in each of the subjects they will teach?

To meet the requirements of the law, teachers at the middle and high school levels who are new to the profession must (1) hold at least a bachelor’s degree, (2) be licensed by the State, and (3) demonstrate their competence, in each of the core academic subjects the teacher teaches, by:

  • completing an academic major, a graduate degree, coursework equivalent to an academic major, or advanced certification or credentialing; or
  • passing a rigorous State academic subject test [Section 9101(23)(B)(ii)].

While it is the responsibility of the SEA to identify and approve such tests, the Department recommends that each SEA use the guidelines below to evaluate any subject-matter tests it may consider using for this purpose.

The academic subject test may consist of a State-required certification or licensing test (or tests) in each of the academic subjects in which a teacher teaches .  The content of the test should be rigorous and objective, focus on a specific academic content area, and have a high, objective, uniform standard that the candidate is expected to meet or exceed.  These standards must be applied to each candidate in the same way.

The purpose of the test is to establish the candidate’s knowledge in a given subject-matter.  In addition, the test might be used to target the areas where additional coursework or staff development may be needed to help the teacher succeed at meeting the standard.

Keeping an explanation on file as to how the tests meet the criteria required by the law, would be one way for a State to demonstrate it is compliance with the Section 9101 requirements. 

A-6. How are the terms “new to the profession” and “not new to the profession” defined?

States have the authority to define which teachers are new and not new to the profession; however, these definitions must be reasonable.  The Department strongly believes that a teacher with less than one year of teaching experience is “new” to the profession and, therefore, must demonstrate subject-matter competency as a new teacher.

A-7. What is meant by “full State certification”?

Full State certification, as determined under State law and policy, means that the teacher has fully met those State requirements that apply to the years of experience the teacher possesses.  For example, these requirements may vary for first-year teachers and for teachers not new to the profession.  In addition, “full State certification” means that the teacher must not have had certification or licensure requirements waived on an emergency, temporary, or provisional basis.

States are free to redefine, in accordance with State law, their certification requirements (for example, they may streamline their requirements if they determine that they are too onerous) or create non-traditional approaches to certification. For example, a State may determine that an individual is fully certified if he or she has passed a rigorous assessment, such as those currently being developed by the American Board for Certification of Teacher Excellence, of his or her subject-matter mastery and professional teaching knowledge.  Such non-traditional approaches to full State certification are different from alternate route to certification programs (see A-8 below) because, in the former, the candidate is fully certified before he or she starts teaching.

A-8. When can a teacher in an alternate route to certification/licensure program be considered “highly qualified”?

A teacher in an alternate route to certification program may be considered highly qualified if the teacher holds at least a bachelor’s degree, has already demonstrated subject-matter competency in the core academic subject(s) the teacher will be teaching, and is participating in an alternate route to certification program in which the teacher:  (1) receives, before and while teaching, high-quality professional development that is sustained, intensive, and classroom-focused in order to have a positive and lasting impact on classroom instruction; (2) participates in a program of intensive supervision that consists of structured guidance and regular ongoing support for teachers or in a teacher mentoring program; (3) assumes functions as a teacher for a period not to exceed three years; and (4) demonstrates satisfactory progress toward full certification as prescribed by the State.

The State must ensure, through its certification and licensure process, that these provisions are met [Section 200.56(a)(2) of the Title I regulations, December 2, 2002].  If the teacher does not complete the alternative certification program within the three-year period, the teacher is no longer considered to be highly qualified.

High Objective Uniform State Standard of Evaluation (HOUSSE)


A-9. What is meant by High Objective Uniform State Standard of Evaluation (HOUSSE) procedures?

 States have the option of developing a method by which teachers not new to the profession can demonstrate competency in each subject they teach on the basis of a “high objective uniform State standard of evaluation” (HOUSSE).  This standard must be one that, among other requirements, “provides objective coherent information about the teacher’s attainment of core content knowledge in the academic subjects in which a teacher teaches” [Section 9101(23)(C)(ii)(III)].

The States can establish a process to evaluate teacher knowledge and ability based on a high, objective uniform State standard of evaluation that meets each of the following criteria [Section 9101(23)(C)(ii)]:

  • Be set by the State for both grade-appropriate academic subject-matter knowledge and teaching skills;
  • Be aligned with challenging State academic content and student academic achievement standards and developed in consultation with core content specialists, teachers, principals, and school administrators; 
  • Provide objective, coherent information about the teacher's attainment of core content knowledge in the academic subjects in which a teacher teaches; 
  • Be applied uniformly to all teachers in the same academic subject and teaching in the same grade level throughout the State; 
  • Take into consideration, but not be based primarily on, the time the teacher has been teaching in the academic subject; and 
  • Be made available to the public upon request. 

The statute also permits the States, when developing their HOUSSE procedures, to involve multiple, objective measures of teacher competency.  Each evaluation should have a high, objective, uniform standard that the candidate is expected to meet or exceed.  These standards for evaluation must be applied to each candidate in the same way.

Where States choose to adopt this alternative means for assessing whether teachers not new to the profession are highly qualified, keeping on file an explanation for how the demonstration of competency meets the criteria required by the law, would be one way for a State to demonstrate that it has established procedures that conform to the Section 9101(23) requirements. 

A-10. What factors should a State consider when developing its HOUSSE procedures?

In considering each of the statutory criteria when developing their HOUSSE procedures, States should consider the following factors:

  • Do the HOUSSE procedures provide an “objective” way of determining whether teachers have adequate subject-matter knowledge in each core academic subject they teach?
  • Is there a strong and compelling rationale for each part of the HOUSSE procedures?  
  • Do the procedures take into account, but not primarily rely on, previous teaching experience? 
  • Does the plan provide solid evidence that teachers have mastered the subject-matter content of each of the core academic subjects they are teaching?  (Note:  experience and association with content-focused groups or organizations do not necessarily translate into an objective measure of content knowledge.)
  • Has the State consulted with core content specialists, teachers, principals, and school administrators? 
  • Does the State plan to widely distribute its HOUSSE procedures, and are they presented in a format understandable to all teachers?

A-11.   May States develop HOUSSE procedures that allow teachers to demonstrate competence in several subjects simultaneously?

Yes, so long as the HOUSSE procedures developed by the States include sufficient information in each of the subject areas to provide a reasonable determination that a teacher has adequate subject-matter competency in those subjects.  In practice, a multi-subject HOUSSE approach may work best when applied to related fields.  For instance, a State might want to consider developing a HOUSSE procedure that applies to the teaching of geography and history.  In this case, it is possible that many of the teacher’s courses, previous teaching experiences, and professional development activities may provide objective evidence of competency in each of these subjects.

A-12.  May States offer HOUSSE procedures as a way for experienced teachers to demonstrate subject-matter competency in the subjects they teach after the 2005-06 school year?

Yes.  Even after the end of the 2005-06 school year, States may continue to offer HOUSSE as a way of determining that individual teachers who are not new to the profession have the subject-matter competence they need to be highly qualified in each subject they teach.  For example, a State’s HOUSSE can still be used after 2006 to demonstrate that the following teachers, among others, have the subject-matter knowledge they need to be highly qualified:  teachers of multiple subjects in rural LEAs eligible for expanded flexibility; teachers rehired by LEAs after periods of work in other professions or retirement; teachers recruited from other Nations; teachers who are highly qualified in one subject area who are asked to teach an additional subject for which they have not yet demonstrated subject-area competency; or teachers who are hired after moving from other States.

Middle School Teachers


A-13. What are the requirements governing highly qualified middle school teachers? 

New to the Profession:  A middle school teacher who is new to the profession must have (1) passed “a rigorous State subject test in each of the academic subjects in which the teacher teaches” [Section 9101(23)(B)(ii)(I)], or (2) have successfully completed, in each of the academic subjects the teacher teaches “an academic major, a graduate degree, coursework equivalent to an undergraduate academic major, or advanced certification or credentialing” [Section 9101(23)(B)(ii)(II)].  [See question A-5.] 
Not new to the Profession:  Middle school teachers who are not new to the profession may meet the subject-matter competency requirement by completing one of the two options listed above for new middle school teachers [Section 9101(23)(C)(i)] or through the HOUSSE procedure established by the SEA.  [See question A-3.] 

A-14. How does a State determine whether teachers of core academic subjects in grades 6, 7, and 8 must meet the subject-area competency requirements for elementary school or for middle school teachers?

The intent of the law is to ensure that each teacher of a core academic subject has sufficient subject-matter knowledge and skills to instruct effectively in his or her assigned subjects, regardless of whether the school is configured as an elementary or a middle school.  For instance, 8th-grade algebra teachers must have the same requisite skills and knowledge whether they teach in elementary schools or middle schools.

To determine whether a teacher of a core academic subject in grades 6 through 8 must meet the subject-matter competency requirements for elementary school teachers or those for middle school teachers, States should examine the degree of rigor and technicality of the subject-matter that the teacher will need to know in relation to the State’s content standards and academic achievement standards for the subjects that will be taught.

A-15. May a teacher with middle school certification be considered highly qualified?

Yes.  In a State that issues a certification specifically for middle school teachers, middle school teachers holding such a certification would be considered highly qualified if they hold a bachelor’s degree and either pass a rigorous a State-approved test of their knowledge of each of the core academic subjects they will teach, or complete an academic major or coursework equivalent to an academic major, attain an advanced degree or certification in each subject they teach, or demonstrate competency in each subject they teach through their State’s HOUSSE procedures.

A-16. May middle school teachers take tests that are specifically developed for middle school academic content areas, or do they have to pass the same tests as high school teachers?

A State may approve rigorous content-area assessments that are developed specifically for middle school teachers and aligned with middle school content and academic standards.

A-17. May a middle school teacher who has passed a State “generalist” exam in math, science, English, and social studies be considered to have demonstrated subject competency - on the basis of passing the test - to teach middle school courses and, therefore, be a highly qualified teacher?

If the content of a general or broad-field exam does not rigorously measure each of the subjects being taught, at the level of difficulty necessary for effective instruction in the subject being taught, the exam cannot be considered valid for demonstrating subject-matter competency.  The law states that a middle school (and high school) teacher must demonstrate a high level of competence “in each of the academic subjects in which the teacher teaches” [Section 9101(23)(B)(ii) and (C)(ii)].  If a teacher does not meet this requirement on the basis of successful completion of an academic major or equivalent, or through the attainment of an advanced degree or credential, the teacher either must, for each subject that he or she would teach, pass a rigorous State academic subject test or demonstrate competence through HOUSSE procedures.  (See A-19 for more information about taking a single exam for subject-area competency.)

Demonstrating Subject-Area Competency

A-18. Are teachers who are highly qualified to teach one or more middle or secondary school science courses also qualified to teach other science courses? 

No Child Left Behind does not identify specific sciences, e.g., biology, chemistry or physics, as core academic subjects; it identifies only “science.”  In determining the extent of subject-matter competency sufficient to identify teachers as highly qualified to teach a particular science course, States may consider the rigor of their current teacher certification standards and student achievement standards.  To the extent that a State requires subject-specific certification or endorsements in a particular field of science, the State must require teachers to demonstrate competency in that subject in order that the teachers be considered highly qualified.

However, some States certify general science teachers or certify them in “broad-field” categories, such as life sciences and physical sciences.  Instead of having teachers demonstrate subject-matter competency in each particular science subject they teach, these States may instead:  (1) require new science teachers to demonstrate content knowledge through a content test or academic major or equivalent that corresponds to their broad certification requirements; and (2) offer experienced teachers the opportunity also to demonstrate competency through HOUSSE procedures that evaluate a teacher’s content knowledge against the State’s broad-field certification requirements. 

A-19.   Can a teacher demonstrate subject-area competency in multiple subjects, e.g., civics and government, or chemistry and physics, through a single test?

Yes, a State may offer a single test that covers more than one core content area.  To be able to determine whether a teacher who passes such a test has demonstrated subject-matter competency in each subject covered by the test, the State would have to determine (as it would for a single-subject test) that the test questions adequately cover the content area of each subject and that the teacher has successfully answered an adequate subset of those questions.

A-20. Are middle school or secondary teachers who have received a composite social studies degree considered highly qualified to teach all four of the social studies disciplines listed in the statute (economics, civics and government, history, and geography)? 

No Child Left Behind does not identify social studies as a core academic subject.  Instead, it identifies specific core academic areas: history, geography, economics, and civics and government.   A composite social studies license might not provide adequate subject-matter preparation for each of these four subjects.  For instance, a teacher might take 42 hours of “social studies” coursework in the course of receiving a composite social studies degree but never take any economics.  That teacher could not be considered highly qualified in economics, but might be highly qualified in one or more of the other three subject areas if the coursework in each area was considered equivalent to a major.

Because a composite social studies degree, by itself, is unlikely to contain enough course content to satisfy HQT requirements in all four core academic areas, the State must determine in which of the four areas, if any, a teacher is qualified.  After 2005-06, teachers who have composite social studies degrees may only be assigned to teach classes in the specific areas in which they have been deemed highly qualified.

A-21.  Must accommodations be provided to teachers with disabilities when they are required to take a test in order to meet the highly qualified teacher requirements?

Both the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (Section 504) generally require that appropriate testing accommodations be provided to qualified individuals with disabilities in such instances.  Under the ADA and Section 504, SEAs and LEAs generally are required to provide appropriate testing accommodations where participation in testing is a condition of employment.  Under the ADA and Section 504, when a State or LEA contracts or arranges with another entity, such as a testing company, to wholly administer the examinations, the State or LEA remains responsible for ensuring that appropriate accommodations are provided to qualified individuals with disabilities participating in testing as a condition of employment. 

Which Teachers Must Be Highly Qualified?


A-22. Do teachers need to meet the highly qualified requirements if they are not teaching a core academic subject?

No, only teachers who teach core academic courses are required to meet the definition of a highly qualified teacher.  (See A-2 for the definition of core academic subjects.)

A-23. How may a school district that brings in visiting international teachers comply with the requirement that all teachers be highly qualified?

NCLB requires each teacher of a core academic subject to be highly qualified, as defined and discussed earlier in this section of the Guidance.  These requirements are essential to ensuring that all teachers of core academic subjects, whether they are recruited and hired from within the United States or from other countries, have the content knowledge and teaching skills needed to enable all students to succeed.  The following sections explain how, consistent with the statutory requirements governing highly qualified teachers, school districts may continue to hire and employ visiting international teachers.

Bachelor’s Degree


A foreign teacher will have met this requirement if he or she has received a degree from a foreign college or university that is at least equivalent to a bachelor’s degree offered by an American institution of higher education (IHE).  Agencies responsible for recruiting international teachers should ensure that they provide the LEAs who will hire these teachers documentation that each international teacher has received the necessary degree from a foreign (or domestic) IHE.

Full State Certification or Licensure


Section 9101(23) states that teachers who have had certification or licensure requirements waived on an emergency, temporary, or provisional basis would not be considered to be highly qualified.  However, in examining the credentials of prospective visiting international teachers, States may find that their existing certification or licensure requirements (including those that govern testing) are ones that these prospective teachers could readily meet.  Because each State continues to have full authority to define and enforce its own requirements that teachers must meet in order to receive full State certification or licensure, States that employ visiting international teachers may consider establishing a separate category of temporary certification that would differ from emergency or provisional certification in that the State would not be waiving any training or experiential requirements. 

In designing this certification category, a State may want to establish interim requirements for international teachers that are tailored to (1) addressing the needs of LEAs within the State, and (2) its responsibility to ensure that visiting teachers have the knowledge and skills to warrant State certification.

This approach would be particularly useful for States and districts that employ, for no more than two years, international teachers who come to this country on a “J-1” visa.

Competency in Subject Knowledge and Teaching Skills


The definition of a “highly qualified” teacher is very specific about the methods available for having a teacher demonstrate subject knowledge and teaching skills.  Experienced international teachers (i.e., teachers who are not new to the field) can demonstrate the required subject competency and teaching skills either by passing subject-matter competency tests or by demonstrating competence on a “high, objective, uniform, State standard of evaluation.”  These options are discussed below.

Subject-Matter Competency Tests:

  • For middle and high school teachers, Section 9101(23)(B)(ii)(I) and (II) permits a State’s new or existing middle and high school teachers to demonstrate the required subject-matter competency and teaching skills by …“successful completion, in each of the academic subjects in which the teacher teaches, of an academic major, a graduate degree, coursework equivalent to an undergraduate academic major, or advanced certification or credentialing.”  Therefore, international teachers who have successfully completed at least an academic major in the subjects that they would teach in U.S. schools have demonstrated the requisite competency in subject competency and teaching skills. 
  • Prospective international teachers who did not major in the subject that they would be hired to teach in U.S. schools would need to take and pass the State test in the subject(s) they would teach.  However, States have flexibility to determine that, for purposes of the international teachers, the subject tests they have passed in their own countries constitute a requisite “State test” for purposes of ESEA Section 9101(23).
  • For elementary school teachers, Section 9101(23)(B)(i)(II) permits a State’s new or experienced elementary school teachers to demonstrate the required subject competency and teaching skills by “passing a rigorous State test … in reading, writing, mathematics, and other areas of the basic elementary school curriculum (which may consist of passing a State-required certification or licensing test or tests in reading, writing, mathematics, and other areas of the basic elementary school curriculum).”  Elementary school teachers may not demonstrate subject-matter competency solely through a subject-area major; otherwise, the options available through HOUSSE (see below) for having middle and high school teachers demonstrate subject competency and teaching skills also apply to elementary school teachers.

High Objective Uniform State Standard of Evaluation:

  • ESEA Section 9101(23)(C)(ii) permits any experienced teacher, without regard to whether the teacher has taught in U.S. schools or schools in other countries, to demonstrate subject competency and teaching skills through a State-established HOUSSE procedure.  States may be able to find reasonable ways to apply their HOUSSE procedures to international teachers.
  • Whatever method a State and LEA may adopt to demonstrate that international teachers have the requisite subject competency and teaching skills before they are employed in U.S. schools, any institutions responsible for recruiting these teachers should be able to provide documentation that international teachers meet the ESEA requirements that govern highly qualified teachers.

A-24. Are early childhood or pre-kindergarten teachers subject to the highly qualified teacher requirements?

The requirements that teachers be highly qualified do not apply to early childhood or pre-kindergarten teachers unless a State includes early childhood or pre-kindergarten as part of its elementary and secondary school system. 

A-25. How do the teacher quality requirements apply to individuals working in extended learning time programs?

If services offered outside of regular school hours in a Title I extended learning time program provide instruction in core academic subjects designed to help students meet State or local academic standards, the persons providing such core academic instruction must meet the highly qualified teacher requirements.  In extended learning time programs (which can include summer school), the school’s regular teaching staff extend or continue the school’s instructional day using the same or similar curricula, and therefore they must be highly qualified.  However, if the instructor is not an employee of the LEA, the teacher quality requirements do not apply.

An extended learning time program that offers core academic instruction because an LEA has determined that particular students need additional time to learn to State standards can be distinguished from an after-school program offering academic enrichment, tutoring and homework assistance, including supplemental educational services under Section 1116 of NCLB.  In the latter case, the highly qualified teacher (and paraprofessional) requirements do not apply.  It is up to the State and the LEA to distinguish between instruction that is provided in extended time and instruction provided in enrichment programs.

A-26. Do teachers who primarily teach English language learners need to meet the highly qualified requirements?

Yes, if the teachers of English language learners provide instruction in core academic subjects.  In addition, teachers of English language learners who teach in instructional programs funded under ESEA Title III must be fluent in English and any other language in which they provide instruction, including having written and oral communication skills.

A-27. Are charter school teachers required to be highly qualified under NCLB?

Yes.  Charter school teachers must hold at least a bachelor’s degree and must demonstrate competence in the core academic areas in which they teach.  Charter school teachers must meet the certification requirements established in the State’s public charter school law, which may differ from the requirements for full State certification.

A-28. Do short- and long-term substitute teachers need to meet the highly qualified requirements?

Substitutes take the place of teachers and, therefore, play a critical role in the classroom and the school.  It is vital that they be able to perform their duties well.  It is strongly recommended that substitutes, especially long-term substitute teachers, as defined by the State, meet the requirements for a highly qualified teacher as defined in Section 9101(23) of the ESEA and Section 602(10) of the IDEA.  In establishing a definition for a long-term substitute, SEAs and LEAs should bear in mind that the law requires that parents of children in Title I schools must be notified if their child has been assigned to, or has been taught for four or more consecutive weeks by, a teacher who is not highly qualified [Section 1111(h)(6)].

A-29. Are middle and high school teachers in small rural schools required to be highly qualified in every core academic subject they teach?
Yes, all teachers who teach core academic subjects will have to be highly qualified in each subject they teach. The Department recognizes, however, that small, rural districts face special challenges in ensuring that all of their teachers are highly qualified in each subject by the end of the 2005–06 school year.  To that end, the Department has offered additional flexibility to these districts.

Under this flexibility, States may permit covered LEAs (see following paragraph) that currently employ teachers who teach multiple subjects and are highly qualified in at least one core academic subject, but do not meet all the criteria for a highly qualified teacher in each of the core academic subjects they teach, to have until the end of the 2006-07 school year for these teachers to be highly qualified in each subject that they teach.  Newly hired teachers in these covered LEAs will have three years from the date of hire to become highly qualified in each core academic subject that they teach.  In order to use this flexibility, covered LEAs will need to: (1) ensure that all teachers in core academic subjects are highly qualified in at least one core academic subject they teach; (2) provide high-quality professional development that increases the teachers' content knowledge in the additional subjects they teach; and (3) provide mentoring or a program of intensive supervision that consists of structured guidance and regular, ongoing support so that teachers become highly qualified in the additional core academic subject(s) they teach.

The Department is offering this flexibility to all LEAs that are eligible to participate in the Small Rural School Achievement (SRSA) program.  A district is eligible for this flexibility if the total number of students in average daily attendance at all of the schools in the district is fewer than 600, or each county in which a school in the district is located has a total population density of fewer than 10 persons per square mile; and all of the schools served by the district are designated with a school locale code of 7 or 8, as determined by the Secretary.  If a district meets either of the first two conditions, the Secretary may grant the district a waiver from the school locale code criterion based on a demonstration by the district, and concurrence by the State educational agency, that the district is located in an area defined as rural by a governmental agency of the State.  A list of the districts currently eligible for this extended teacher preparation time is available on the ED website, at: www.ed.gov/programs/reapsrsa/eligible04/index.html.  Almost 4,900 districts, about one-third of all districts nationally, meet these criteria for small, rural districts.  States with LEAs that employ this flexibility must submit an amendment to their consolidated applications notifying the Department of Education.

A-30. Must special education teachers who teach core academic subjects be highly qualified?

Yes.  NCLB requires all teachers of core academic subjects, including special education teachers, to be highly qualified.  The November 2004 reauthorization of IDEA reinforces this requirement.  Subject to the special rules discussed in questions A-31 and A-32 below, IDEA now requires that all special education teachers who teach core academic subjects be highly qualified.  The reauthorized IDEA adds the requirement that in order to be highly qualified, special education teachers must hold a special education certificate or be licensed as special education teachers in addition to holding a bachelor’s degree and demonstrating subject-matter competency.  The complete definition of a “highly qualified” special education teacher is in Section 602(10) of the IDEA, which can be found in Appendix D of this document.

A-31. If a special education teacher teaches core academic subjects exclusively to students who are being assessed against alternate academic achievement standards, at what subject-matter level must the special education teacher be highly qualified?

The 2004 IDEA amendments provide that if a special education teacher teaches core academic subjects exclusively to students who are being assessed against alternate achievement standards, the teacher must meet the highly qualified requirements for elementary school teachers and, for instruction above the elementary level have subject-matter knowledge appropriate to the level of instruction being provided.  Please see Section 602(10)(C) of the IDEA for the complete text and the IDEA regulations when they become final to ensure compliance.

A-32.  Must special education teachers who teach multiple core academic subjects exclusively to students with disabilities be highly qualified in all subjects they teach? 

Yes.  Special education teachers in this category, whether new to the profession or not, must be highly qualified.  Special education teachers who are not new to the profession must demonstrate competence in all core subjects they teach, just as all teachers not new to the profession must do.  States may, however, develop a multi-subject HOUSSE that allows teachers to demonstrate subject-matter competency in each of the core academic subjects they teach.

The 2004 IDEA amendments provide that special education teachers new to the profession who teach multiple core academic subjects and are highly qualified in mathematics, language arts, or science at the time they are hired, have two additional years after the date of hire to become highly qualified in all other academic subjects they teach, including through use of a HOUSSE.  Please see Section 602(10)(D) of the IDEA for the complete text and the IDEA regulations when they become final to ensure compliance.

A-33. What activities may special education teachers carry out if they are not highly qualified in the core academic content area being taught?

There are many activities that special education teachers may carry out that would not, by themselves, require those teachers to be highly qualified in a particular subject-matter.  Special educators who do not directly instruct students in any core academic subjects or who provide only consultation to highly qualified teachers of core academic subjects in adapting curricula, using behavioral supports and interventions, or selecting appropriate accommodations do not need to demonstrate subject-matter competency in those subjects.  These special educators could also assist students with study skills or organizational skills and reinforce instruction that the child has already received from a highly qualified teacher in that core academic subject. 

States and districts should consider the needs of special education teachers as they implement Title II, Part A, particularly for activities that relate to professional development and reform of teacher certification or licensing procedures.  By coordinating the appropriate use of resources from other Federal programs, such as the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), States can ensure that Title II, Part A funds are used effectively to help establish a coherent and comprehensive system that supports teacher quality.

A-34. Must veteran subject specialists who teach in elementary schools be highly qualified in all subjects or just the subject they teach?

Many elementary schools employ subject-area specialists—such as reading, science or foreign language teachers—who only teach those specific subjects.  A single-subject teacher in an elementary school who is not new to the profession may demonstrate the subject-matter competency needed to be highly qualified either by passing a rigorous State test in that subject or by satisfying the State’s HOUSSE procedures.

A-35.  Do the highly qualified teacher requirements apply to teachers who work in juvenile institutions, correctional institutions, and other alternative educational settings?

Section 1119 of Title I requires each SEA that receives Title I, Part A funds to develop (and hence implement) a plan to ensure that all teachers teaching in core academic subjects within the State are highly qualified.  This requirement extends to all teachers of core academic subjects who are employed by agencies or entities under the authority of the SEA.  As a result, it applies to teachers employed by LEAs as well as teachers employed by the SEA or other entities under the SEA's authority.  Thus, if juvenile institutions, correctional institutions, and other alternative educational settings are either LEAs under State law or under the authority of the SEA, teachers of core academic subjects employed by those entities must be highly qualified. 

If such entities are neither LEAs as defined under State law nor under the SEA's authority, the section 1119 requirements regarding highly qualified teachers do not apply to teachers they employ.  Nevertheless, it is critical that all students, regardless of school setting, be able to achieve to the State's content and academic achievement standards.  We therefore urge all educational entities not subject to the highly qualified teacher requirements to ensure that students have teachers with the content knowledge and skills needed to help them succeed.

A-36.  May a teacher who is highly qualified in one State also be considered highly qualified in other States?

Each State uses its own standards and procedures to determine whether those who teach within that State are highly qualified.  Just as each State determines when and on what basis to provide full certification or licensure to teachers already certified in other States, each State determines when and on what basis to accept the determination of another State that a particular teacher is highly qualified.  Thus, each State determines whether or not to consider the teacher from another State to be both “fully certified” and having demonstrated adequate subject-matter competency in each subject the teacher will teach.

A-37. Are LEAs required to inform parents about the quality of a school’s teachers?

Yes.  At the beginning of each school year, an LEA that accepts Title I, Part A funding must notify parents of students in Title I schools that they can request information regarding their child’s teacher, including, at a minimum:

  • 1. whether the teacher has met the State requirements for licensure and certification for the grade levels and subject-matters in which the teacher provides instruction;
  • 2. whether the teacher is teaching under emergency or other provisional status through which State qualification or licensing criteria have been waived;
  • 3. the college major and any other graduate certification or degree held by the teacher, and the field of discipline of the certification or degree; and
  • 4. whether the child is provided services by paraprofessionals, and if so, their qualifications.

In addition, each Title I school must provide each parent “timely notice that the parent’s child has been assigned, or has been taught for 4 or more consecutive weeks by, a teacher who is not highly qualified” [Section 1111(h)(6)].

A-38. If a State or LEA enters into a contract with a private school for the education of children living in the State or area served by the LEA, do the "highly qualified teacher" requirements of NCLB apply to teachers in that private school?

No.  Under the statute, the highly qualified teacher requirements apply only to public school teachers.

A-39. If a highly qualified teacher is not available locally to teach a certain subject, may a district use a highly qualified teacher who is located elsewhere to teach that subject through distance learning?

Yes, highly qualified teachers may teach “virtual” classes through distance learning.  For instance, rural districts might take advantage of broadband Internet connectivity to allow students to take advanced science, mathematics, or foreign language courses from highly qualified teachers throughout or outside of the State.  The highly qualified teacher must be responsible for providing the direct instruction through distance learning and be accountable for monitoring student progress and assigning grades.  Students may be assisted by on-site personnel (e.g., teacher aides, paraprofessionals, or teachers who are not highly qualified in that subject) responsible for supporting instruction provided by the highly qualified teacher.

A-40. Must a college or university faculty member who teaches core academic subjects to secondary school students be highly qualified?

A faculty member must be highly qualified if the LEA directly employs him or her.  If, on the other hand, an LEA (1) pays tuition to an institution of higher education to permit students to take core academic courses at the college or university, or (2) acquires the teaching services of the college or university faculty member at the LEA’s school through a contract or a memorandum of understanding with that individual’s institution of higher education, then the faculty member is not an employee of the LEA and is not subject to the highly qualified teacher requirements. 

A-41.  Can a State consider an applied mathematics or science course that is team taught by a highly qualified mathematics or science teacher and career and technical education teacher to be taught by a highly qualified teacher?

If the highly qualified teacher of mathematics and science is collaborating with the career and technical education teacher in the design of the lessons, teaching the mathematics or science concepts and grading the assignments and assessments, the course can be considered as taught by a highly qualified teacher.  While the career and technical education teacher may be in a better position to set the context for the application of a particular mathematics or science context, either teacher may introduce the concept.  The concept must, however, be thoroughly taught by the mathematics or science teacher.

Paraprofessionals


A-42.   What are the requirements in No Child Left Behind for paraprofessionals or teachers’ aides?

Paraprofessionals—aides who provide instructional support services in a school—can be a valuable resource in any school setting.  No Child Left Behind sets clear guidelines for academic qualifications for individuals assisting in instruction in Title I-funded programs.  The law allows those teachers’ aides to support instruction if they have met certain academic requirements:  they must have at least an associate’s degree or have completed at least two years of college, or meet a rigorous standard of quality and demonstrate, through a formal State or local assessment, knowledge of, and the ability to assist in instruction in reading, writing, and mathematics, reading readiness, writing readiness, or mathematics readiness, as appropriate. 

However, aides in Title I schools do not need to meet these requirements if their role does not involve instructional support.  Thus, paraprofessionals who serve only as hall monitors, interpreters, or parental involvement aides do not have to meet the same academic requirements.  Similarly, if an aide working with special education students does not provide any instructional support (such as one who solely provides personal care services), that person is not considered a paraprofessional under Title I, and the academic requirements do not apply.  More information on the NCLB requirements for paraprofessionals is available at: http://www.ed.gov/policy/elsec/guid/paraguidance.doc

NCLB required that paraprofessionals demonstrate competency no later than four years after the law's enactment, or January 8, 2006.  On June 17, 2005, Deputy Secretary of Education Ray Simon announced that this deadline would be extended to the end of the 2005-06 school year, bringing it into conformity with the deadline by which teachers of core subjects must be highly qualified.

The following section contains information on Highly Qualified Teachers in a question and answer format. In addition to "What is a Highly Qualified Teacher" NASET Members can access another section on "Professional Development" or Download the entire 95 page document (Members Login in to Download). Sections within the PDF file inlcude the following:

  • HIGHLY QUALIFIED TEACHERS (see below)
  • PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT (Members Login to view)
  • FEDERAL AWARDS TO THE STATE EDUCATIONAL AGENCY
  • STATE USE OF FUNDS
  • STATE AWARDS TO THE LOCAL EDUCATIONAL AGENCY
  • LOCAL USE OF FUNDS
  • FEDERAL AWARDS TO THE STATE AGENCY FOR HIGHER EDUCATION
  • PRIVATE SCHOOL PARTICIPATION
  • APPENDIX A - Definitions, Acronyms, and Abbreviations
  • APPENDIX B - Title II, Part A Statute
  • APPENDIX C - Statute -- ESEA Title I, Part A, Section 1119
  • APPENDIX D - Statute -- IDEA Title I, Part A, Section 602


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