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Ed. Dept. Report on Alternative-Certification Teachers A Year Late

The U.S. Department of Education is more than year late in releasing a congressionally mandated report on who's teaching the nation's most underserved students.

The report is supposed to show whether English-language learners, students with disabilities, students of color, and low-income students are disproportionately taught by teachers who are still being trained in alternative-certification programs. 

(Hat tip to Alexander Russo, who reminded all of us in December that the report was due by the end of 2013.) 

The history here is pretty complicated, but it has to do with the mandate in the No Child Left Behind law that all teachers of core subjects be "highly qualified"—i.e., hold full state certification and demonstrate subject-matter competency. In essence, Congress inserted language into a spending bill to permit alternative-route teachers to be deemed "highly qualified" even though most were still fulfilling certification requirements. (Earlier Education Department regulations to that end were overturned by courts.) In a nod to critics, the Congress also directed the Education Department to prepare the analysis.

And who are the critics of this "loophole?" Mainly the Coalition on Teacher Quality—which includes civil rights groups, the teachers' unions, and the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education. They say all teachers should have completed their preparation before becoming full-time teachers of record. And they've targeted Teach For America in particular, which has lobbied to keep the exception in place.

On the other hand, as supporters of the provision point out, some teachers in alternative certification programs do just fine by their students.

For more background on the report, read this blog item from several years back.

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