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With a Deadline Looming, the U.S. Department of Education Wants to Know: Are All Teachers Highly Qualified?

May 11, 2007

CHICAGO—States and school districts are bracing for sanctions as the deadline approaches this summer for meeting the Highly Qualified Teacher provision of No Child Left Behind (NCLB). States were given an extra year to meet the deadline to have highly qualified teachers in all core academic subjects when none met the original deadline of the end of the 2005–06 school year.

As a condition for the deadline extension, states were required to submit revised plans detailing the specific steps they are taking to meet the Highly Qualified Teacher goal. The U.S. Department of Education has yet to announce what the sanctions will be for states that do not meet the Highly Qualified Teacher requirement. However, as long as states and districts continue to do everything they reasonably can to help all teachers of core academic subjects become highly qualified, there are unlikely to be any drastic legal consequences or financial penalties in the near future, according to Sabrina Laine, Ph.D., chief program officer at Learning Point Associates and the director of the National Comprehensive Center for Teacher Quality.

Most of the states are working as hard as they can to meet the qualifications,” said Dr. Laine. “Through our work, we have helped many states revise their plans and, at this point, all but two of the plans have been approved by the U.S. Department of Education.”

While states and districts may be saved from sanctions, the same is not necessarily true for individual teachers. Some districts are requiring that teachers must be highly qualified as a condition of continued employment, much like they are expected to periodically renew their teaching certificate. Districts that cannot find highly qualified teachers for particular subject areas must make a decision whether to continue to employ or to hire teachers who are not highly qualified.

This has been a particularly acute issue in secondary school special education classrooms, where teachers are routinely expected to teach multiple subjects without being highly qualified in all of them, and in isolated rural communities where it is difficult in general to recruit or retain highly qualified teachers.

NCLB requires states to (1) measure the extent to which all students have highly qualified teachers, particularly minority and disadvantaged students; (2) adopt goals and plans to ensure all teachers are highly qualified, and (3) publicly report plans and progress in meeting teacher quality goals. To meet the law’s definition of a highly qualified teacher, a teacher must:

  • Have full state certification.
  • Hold at least a bachelor’s degree.
  • Demonstrate subject-matter competency in each of the core academic subjects they teach.

“Nothing is more important to a child’s education at school than having a highly qualified, effective teacher,” said Dr. Laine. “We are working to ensure that all the pieces are in place—from teacher preparation and mentoring programs to professional development and compensation—to help teachers be the best they can be to make a difference for every child.”

Turn to the National Comprehensive Center for Teacher Quality at Learning Point Associates for all your teacher quality issues. To schedule an interview with Dr. Sabrina Laine, contact Ann Kinder at 630-649-6606 or For more information on teacher and leadership quality, visit

The National Comprehensive Center for Teacher Quality (NCCTQ) is the premier national resource to which the regional comprehensive assistance centers, states, and other education stakeholders turn for strengthening the quality of teaching—especially in high-poverty, low-performing, and hard-to-staff schools—and for finding guidance in addressing specific needs, thereby ensuring highly qualified teachers are serving students with special needs.

NCCTQ, funded by the U.S. Department of Education, is a collaborative effort of Education Commission of the States, ETS, Learning Point Associates, and Vanderbilt University.

About Learning Point Associates
Learning Point Associates is a nonprofit educational organization with more than 20 years of direct experience working with and for educators and policymakers to transform education systems and student learning. Our vision is an education system that works for all learners, and our mission is to deliver the knowledge, strategies, and results to help educators and policymakers make research-based decisions that produce sustained improvement.

Learning Point Associates manages a diversified portfolio of work ranging from direct consulting assignments to major federal contracts and grants. Our professional staff of 150 continues to grow as our organization expands both nationally and internationally, with offices in Naperville, Chicago, and Washington, D.C. Since 1984, Learning Point Associates has operated the regional educational laboratory serving the Midwest—initially known as the North Central Regional Educational Laboratory® (NCREL®) and now known as REL Midwest.

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