It doesn’t take much to be deemed a “highly qualified” teacher under federal law. Now, disability advocates are asking Congress to raise the bar.
Currently, teachers who are still working on their certification through an alternative training program like Teach for America are able to gain the “highly qualified” label.
The U.S. Senate is considering renewing a provision allowing these classroom rookies to retain the highly qualified designation but advocates from several national disability groups are asking them not to.
In a letter to leaders of the Senate Appropriations Committee this week, advocates said the practice is having a disproportionately negative impact on students with disabilities.
“The current amendment has opened the floodgates for more and more uncertified special education teachers to serve students with disabilities,” reads the letter from the education task force of the Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities, a coalition of nearly 100 disability organizations. “Being an effective teacher for a student with autism or intellectual disabilities or learning disabilities requires sophisticated skill and is not mastered in a five-week program.”
Two Senate committees had an opportunity to act on the provision this week, but both deferred, leaving the issue open for further debate.