How NCLB Defines “Highly Qualified”

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December 2009

Photo of a teacher working with a student.As part of NCLB’s intention to improve teacher quality and, thus, outcomes for children, it requires local educational agencies (LEAs) to ensure that all teachers hired to teach core academic subjects in Title I programs are highly qualified. In general, a “highly qualified teacher” is one with:

  • full certification,
  • a bachelor’s degree, and
  • demonstrated competence in subject knowledge and teaching.

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NCLB’s Definition of HQT

The actual definition and teacher requirements of highly qualified teacher can be found in §9101 of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), otherwise known as NCLB. It reads as follows:

(23) HIGHLY QUALIFIED—The term ‘highly qualified’ —

(A) when used with respect to any public elementary school or secondary school teacher teaching in a State, means that—

(i) the teacher has obtained full State certification as a teacher (including certification obtained through alternative routes to certification) or passed the State teacher licensing examination, and holds a license to teach in such State, except that when used with respect to any teacher teaching in a public charter school, the term means that the teacher meets the requirements set forth in the State’s public charter school law; and

(ii) the teacher has not had certification or licensure requirements waived on an emergency, temporary, or provisional basis;

(B) when used with respect to—

(i) an elementary school teacher who is new to the profession, means that the teacher—

(I) holds at least a bachelor’s degree; and

(II) has demonstrated, by passing a rigorous State test, subject knowledge and teaching skills 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); or

(ii) a middle or secondary school teacher who is new to the profession, means that the teacher holds at least a bachelor’s degree and has demonstrated a high level of competency in each of the academic subjects in which the teacher teaches by—

(I) passing a rigorous State academic subject test in each of the academic subjects in which the teacher teaches (which may consist of a passing level of performance on a State-required certification or licensing test or tests in each of the academic subjects in which the teacher teaches); or

(II) 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; and

(C) when used with respect to an elementary, middle, or secondary school teacher who is not new to the profession, means that the teacher holds at least a bachelor’s degree and—

(i) has met the applicable standard in clause (i) or (ii) of subparagraph (B), which includes an option for a test; or

(ii) demonstrates competence in all the academic subjects in which the teacher teaches based on a high objective uniform State standard of evaluation that —

(I) is set by the State for both grade appropriate academic subject matter knowledge and teaching skills;

(II) is aligned with challenging State academic content and student academic achievement standards and developed in consultation with core content specialists, teachers, principals, and school administrators;

(III) provides objective, coherent information about the teacher’s attainment of core content knowledge in the academic subjects in which a teacher teaches;

(IV) is applied uniformly to all teachers in the same academic subject and the same grade level throughout the State;

(V) takes into consideration, but not be based primarily on, the time the teacher has been teaching in the academic subject;

(VI) is made available to the public upon request; and

(VII) may involve multiple, objective measures of teacher competency.

NCLB’s definition is quite long and extensive, isn’t it? NICHCY provides it here because IDEA has modeled its definition of highly qualified after NCLB’s.

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What Are Core Academic Subjects?

NCLB called for all teachers of core academic subjects (teaching in Title I programs or elsewhere) to be highly qualified by the end of school year 2005-2006—a timeline that has clearly come and gone. IDEA has assumed NCLB’s definition of core academic subjects (at section 9101) and gives that definition at §300.10, as follows:

§ 300.10 Core academic subjects.

Core academic subjects means English, reading or language arts, mathematics,  science, foreign languages, civics and government, economics, arts, history, and geography.

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For More Information on NCLB

It’s beyond NICHCY’s scope to delve deeply into NCLB, except as to how that law affects and applies to children with disabilities. However, a veritable ton of information is available on this important federal law. Here are two resources that will connect you with yet more.

U.S. Department of Education
http://www.ed.gov/nclb/landing.jhtml

Education Commission of the United States (ECS)
http://nclb2.ecs.org/Projects_Centers/Index.aspx

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