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NCLB Outrages

Report, suit question teacher qualifications

By Greg Toppo

A federal lawsuit and a new report challenge the Bush administration's rules on teacher credentials, saying they fail to ensure that students have a highly qualified teacher. But the lawsuit and the report offer diverging recommendations for fixing the problem.

The lawsuit, filed Tuesday in San Francisco by several civil rights groups, challenges the U.S. Education Department's regulations for "highly qualified teachers," saying the department has watered down the standard by allowing thousands of teachers-in-training in California and elsewhere to be declared highly qualified before they even finish training.

Poor and minority students, the suit says, are more likely to be taught by interns; in many cases, about 12% of poor students' teachers are interns. Statewide, only about 3% of teachers are interns.

Amy Wilkins of The Education Trust, an advocacy group, says the Education Department "has failed miserably" in ensuring that all students have highly qualified teachers. She also says the state of California and its school districts "have sought to undermine the intent of the law at every turn."

The Education Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The report, from the Center on Education Policy, a Washington think tank that has monitored Bush's No Child Left Behind education reform law, says the law has had little effect on either student achievement or the qualifications of the teacher workforce. But it recommends the federal government give states more leeway, not less, in how they define a qualified teacher.

— Greg Toppo
USA Today


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