NCLB and Highly Qualified Teachers

Three Questions That All States Must Ask and Answer

The No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 underscores the important role teacher quality plays in student achievement. The legislation requires that new teachers hired after the start of 2002-03 in programs supported by Title I, Part A be "highly qualified" and that all teachers, both new and existing, teaching in core academic subjects be "highly qualified" by 2005-2006. These requirements will challenge states to examine their current teacher certification processes to determine their compliance with No Child Left Behind, and to ensure that all teachers have mastery of their content areas. In order to ascertain the extent to which policies may need to be modified or created to ensure compliance with the "highly qualified" teacher provisions in the legislation, there are three guiding questions that all states must ask and answer.

The "highly qualified" teacher provisions in No Child Left Behind recognize that all children deserve access to high-quality teachers and promote state efforts to ensure an equitable distribution of high-quality educators. States that have relied heavily on emergency certification, long-term substitutes, waivers or provisional licenses can take advantage of funds allocated under Title II for professional development to help all their teachers - new, provisional and existing - become highly qualified. There are also funds available for states to revise their certification processes to ensure compliance with the legislation.

Some states are more challenged than others in meeting the "highly qualified" teacher requirements of No Child Left Behind. It is important to bear in mind, however, that this legislation is designed to help all students achieve and provide them with the opportunity to succeed not only in school but also in life.

Note: ECS is creating a comprehensive database of all 50 states' and Territories' implementation of No Child Left Behind. The information gathered by this project will help meet three objectives: (1) track policy developments, changes or enactments involving implementation among the 50 states and four territories over the coming year; (2) provide a means for states and policy organizations to identify technical assistance needs and; (3) identify model policies, programs or practices across the 50 states and four territories that could help individual states address unique cultural or political realities confronting them during implementation.

Charles R. Coble, Executive Director
Twanna Hill, Policy Analyst
ECS Teaching Quality Policy Center

Special thanks to Jan Somerville, senior associate, National Association of System Heads (NASH) and to her colleagues in the NASH state network for their invaluable assistance in providing much of the background information for this paper.

© 2012 Education Commission of the States
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