The Department of Education has released its annual report on Highly Qualified Teachers (HQTs). To be deemed highly qualified, the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) requires that teachers possess a baccalaureate degree and a state teaching certificate, and that teachers also demonstrate subject-matter knowledge. However, alternative route programs often allow candidates to teach while they complete their coursework for full state certification or licensure to fill critical shortage areas, such as special education. Such teachers may be considered highly qualified under ESEA, if they meet certain standards. Many advocates are concerned that teachers in alternative route programs may be disproportionately assigned to teach students with greater needs (such as those with disabilities) and are not fully prepared to teach them.
This year’s Department of Education report found that while most states employed some HQTs who were enrolled in alternative route teacher preparation programs, these teachers made up a small proportion, both overall as well as for the subgroups of HQTs examined in this report. The average percentage of HQTs enrolled in alternative route programs was 1.9% for special education teachers, 2.3% for high-poverty school districts, and 1.3% for rural school districts.
It is important to note that the requirement for “highly qualified teachers” has been removed from the current version of the Senate ESEA (S. 1177). Teachers must only be “state certified” and states have multiple levels of certification, including “temporary” and “provisional. Learn more at the Coalition for Teaching Quality.