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How Can I Help Teachers Being Pushed Out by New Law?


Note: Congress has reauthorized the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), the statute formerly known as No Child Left Behind. The new statute, Every Student Succeeds Act, was signed into law by President Obama on December 10, 2015.


An attorney writes: "I have been approached by highly qualified teachers who are being pushed out of their positions by law changes. I am looking for guidance about how these caring teachers can continue to work."

From Wrightslaw:

The law that requires states to upgrade teacher qualifications is a federal law, the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001. This law requires all teachers to be "highly qualified" (to demonstrate competence in the subjects they teach) by the end of the 2005-2006 school year.

When the law was passed, many people hoped that exceptions would be carved out for various groups so they would not have to become highly qualified. This did not happen.

In fact, when Congress reauthorized the Individuals with Disabilities Act in December 2004, they clarified that the highly qualified teacher requirements apply to special education teachers too. The only exception that I am aware of is that teachers in rural areas (who often teach several subjects) were given one additional year to become highly qualified - that's it.

The law required states to establish standards that aligned teacher certification to knowledge of 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 (Title IX, Section 9101(11)).

In exchange for federal funds, states had to develop academic standards, align student testing to the standards, and align teacher certification to these standards. As this was accomplished, school districts had to ensure that their teachers meet these standards.

Federal funds flow from the state to school districts. School districts can use funds for professional development and training to ensure that their teachers meet these requirements. Teachers in all states need to find out what they need to do to meet their state standards. Since teachers have to be highly qualified by the end of the 2005-2006 school year, the teachers you represent don't have any more time to waste.

There are several ways teachers can meet these standards - they can have a major in the subject(s) they teach or they can take an exam to demonstrate their competence.

If you are representing the interests of teachers who do not meet these requirements, you need to be knowledgeable about the No Child Left Behind Act, the purpose of the law, and the teacher quality requirements.

You may want to get a copy of Wrightslaw: No Child Left Behind - it contains the full text of the NLCB statute with commentary and analyses. It also includes separate chapters that address the interests of different groups - teachers, school administrators, parents, academics, school leaders, and attorneys. The book includes a NCLB CD-ROM of publications and resources about the law.

In addition, we built a NCLB site on Wrightslaw that includes these sections:

You can help the teachers you represent by encouraging them to learn about this law - it will have a huge impact on their lives.

Good luck to you,

Pam Wright


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