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NCLB: Teacher and Paraprofessional Quality

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National Education Association
Updated on Apr 8, 2009
The reauthorized Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), or NCLB, has provisions that have a dramatic impact on the work of teachers and education support professionals. Under the law, virtually all public school teachers have to be "highly qualified," which includes being fully licensed or certified under state law, by the end of the 2005-06 school year. Paraprofessionals who have instructional duties, such as a teacher's classroom aide, must have two years' of college or pass a rigorous state competency examination by the same deadline.
"Highly Qualified"
The definition of "highly qualified" in the law requires that public elementary and secondary school teachers have obtained full state certification or passed the state teacher licensing examination; hold a license to teach in the state; and not have had a certificate or license requirement waived under emergency, temporary or provisional conditions. There are exceptions to this for certain teachers in charter schools or in alternate certification programs.
Are you a "highly qualified" teacher?
Are you a "highly qualified" paraprofessional?
What the Law Says
States must: apply evaluation standards uniformly to all teachers in the same subject and grade level throughout the state; publish an annual report disclosing the professional qualifications of teachers, the percent working with emergency or provisional credentials, and the percent of classes in the state not taught by ''highly qualified'' teachers.
By the end of the 2005-06 school year, all teachers in core subject areas must meet the following definitions of "highly qualified" for all teachers, for new elementary teachers, for new middle or secondary teachers, for existing elementary, middle, and secondary teachers, and for paraprofessionals.
In October 2005, the Department announced that states that meet certain criteria could receive a one-year extension of the 2005-06 deadline for having all teachers of core academic subjects meet the NCLB "highly qualified" rules. NEA President Weaver called it a step in the right direction, but noted that it would have been simpler to provide a one-year extension to all states. Read the ED announcement.
All teachers must: be fully licensed or certified by the state; not have had any certification or licensure requirements waived on an emergency, temporary, or provisional basis.
New elementary teachers must: have at least a bachelor’s degree; pass a state test demonstrating subject knowledge and teaching skills in reading, writing, mathematics, and other areas of any basic elementary school curriculum.
New middle or secondary teachers must: have at least a bachelor’s degree; demonstrate competency in each of the academic subjects taught; or complete an academic major or coursework equivalent to a major, or a graduate degree in each of the academic areas in which the teacher teaches; or advanced certification.
Existing elementary, middle, and secondary teachers must: have at least a bachelor’s degree; and meet the requirements for new teachers described above; or demonstrate competency in all subjects taught; (A uniform state evaluation standard is to be used to judge competency. be evaluated under a standard that must provide objective information about the teacher‘s knowledge in the subject taught and can consider, but not use as a primary criterion, time spent teaching the subject.
Paraprofessionals must: have completed at least two years of post secondary education; be a high school graduate who can demonstrate on a formal state or local assessment the skills necessary to assist in classroom instruction of reading, writing, and mathematics.
The evaluation standard must provide objective information about the teacher‘s knowledge in the subject taught and can consider, but not use as a primary criterion, time spent teaching the subject.
The law refers to paraprofessionals who have instructional, or classroom, duties. The only exemptions are for paraeducators whose jobs are solely to provide translations or coordinate parental involvement.
The law also lists specific "allowable duties," which include one-on-one tutoring. The law also prohibits schools from requiring paraeducators to provide instruction without the direct supervision of a teacher. For more information, visit NEA's ESEA and Paraprofessionals page.
Key deadlines for teacher quality
End of 2002-03 school year:
Any new teachers hired and working in a program supported by Title I funds must meet requirements of a “highly qualified” teacher.
States and districts must begin reporting their progress toward ensuring all teachers are "highly qualified."
End of the 2005-06 school year:
All teachers in core academic subjects must be “highly qualified.” (Core academic subjects include all subjects except PE, computer science, and vocational education.)

What NEA Is Doing
NEA and its affiliates have long supported the goal of a qualified teacher in every classroom. We support making sure all people on the school team -- teachers'aides, bus drivers, food services, and building maintenance staff -- have the preparation and education they need to be effective. And we are working to make sure all educators know what they need to meet the new education qualifications of the law.
NEA's work includes: helping states review their current requirements for teacher licensure; identifying and supporting members who serve on state and local teacher quality advisory boards; developing sound alternative routes to licensure or certification. supporting state affiliate programs that help teachers and paraprofessionals get the financial and academic assistance they need to earn required credentials; urging school districts and states to pay for programs that will help their staffs meet the new requirements; advocate for salaries and other compensation to attract and retain quality educators.
What You Can Do
Support local and state efforts to create a highly qualified education workforce.
Consider a career in education. Visit the NEA Student Program section of our Web site for aspiring teachers.
For more information, visit our NEA Teacher Quality area.

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