The federal No Child Left Behind (NCLB) legislation requires that 100 percent of the core academic subjects be taught by HQTs by 2005-2006. No state has met this federal requirement. All states, including West Virginia, were required to submit a plan by July 7, 2006, outlining strategies for meeting the 100 percent HQT requirement.
“Our teachers are at the center of 21st century learning,” said state Superintendent of Schools Steve Paine. “We have caring, capable and qualified educators in our classrooms. It is also important to point out that NCLB has several unintended consequences. One of these unintended consequences is that some West Virginia teachers who meet or even exceed rigorous state teacher certification standards may not meet the federal definition of highly qualified.”
The NCLB definition of highly qualified requires teachers to be fully state certified AND to demonstrate subject competence in one of four federally approved methods that include testing, advanced credential, academic major or performance evaluation. The performance evaluation is commonly referred to as the HOUSSE option, short for high objective uniform state standard of evaluation. This means that teachers who have graduated from a state-approved teacher education program and who have been granted certification to teach in West Virginia must also prove that they are competent to teach the subject in which they are already certified.
In June, the U.S. Department of Education directed states to discontinue the use of the HOUSSE option. While teachers who used the HOUSSE option to meet the federal definition of highly qualified in 2005-2006 will retain their HQT status, the option must be discontinued after this year. This new regulation creates significant problems in areas of the state already experiencing teacher shortages. A school system may advertise a teaching vacancy multiple times and have no fully certified teacher apply. The county superintendent must then employ the most qualified applicant, who may hold full state certification, but not in the specific subject needed to fill the vacancy, and this will be considered not highly qualified.
“Despite these and other shortcomings of NCLB, we have identified some areas of concern regarding the number of highly qualified teachers in schools with high poverty and high ethnicity,” Paine said. “We embrace the opportunity to improve what we teach and how we teach in West Virginia. West Virginia plans to use this HQT data to identify the specific subjects and geographic locations where there are teachers who need assistance in meeting the highly qualified definition.”
In the state HQT plan submitted to the U.S. Department of Education in July, West Virginia identified four primary strategies for achieving the 100 percent HQT goal:
-rigorous, content-focused and job-embedded professional development that may be delivered in an on-line format and that will lead to an advanced credential that meets the HQT definition;
-alternative routes to teacher certification that are developed in collaboration with higher education in core academic subjects identified as critical shortages areas;
-alternative routes to certification that allow teachers already certified in one content area to complete a streamlined program that leads to certification in additional content areas; and
-“grow your own” programs that allow counties to work with WVDE and other entities to begin with high school students to generate interest in, and provide support for, students to complete a teacher education program and return to their home county for employment.
The state HQT average may change based on corrections made on the county or school level. Counties have until mid-September to correct its HQT data. For more information about HQT requirements, contact Liza Cordeiro, executive director, WVDE Communications Office at (304) 558-2699.