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Education Dept's 'Highly Qualifed' Teacher Regulations Upheld

A federal district judge has upheld the U.S. Department of Education's regulations on "highly qualified" teachers under the No Child Left Behind Act.

The judge rejected a legal challenge that said the rules permitted teachers in training under alternative-certification programs to be labeled as "highly qualified" under the law.

"By failing to define the phrase 'full state certification as a teacher (including certification obtained through alternative routes to certification),' Congress gave the secretary [of education] the discretion to clarify what the statute permits," U.S. District Judge Phyllis J. Hamilton of San Francisco said in her June 17 ruling in Renee v. Spellings.

The lawsuit was brought by Public Advocates, a San Francisco-based legal organization, on behalf of a group of California parents, students, and community organizations. The suit alleged that the highly qualified teacher regulation, promulgated in December 2002 by then-Secretary Rod Paige, allows uncertified teachers in alternative programs to teach up to three years while seeking certification, and that many of those teachers are working in low-performing schools with high enrollments of minority students. Education Week reported on the lawsuit here.

Judge Hamilton held that there was enough ambiguity in the text of the NCLB law about whether teachers must have completed teacher-training programs to require that the secretary's regulations be given deference.

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