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Administration Seeks Extension of 'Highly Qualified' Status for Trainee Teachers

The Obama administration is seeking yet another yearlong extension of language allowing teachers still in training to be considered "highly qualified" under the No Child Left Behind Act.

The law requires all teachers of core academic subjects to have state credentials, a bachelor's degree, and to demonstrate subject-matter competency. Parents of students taught by non-HQTs are notified in writing by their districts.

But under a series of budget bills from 2011 onward, Congress has allowed teachers in alternative-preparation programs—full-time teachers who are still earning their qualifications, generally under the supervision of a mentor—to be considered highly qualified.

Critics consider this a major loophole in the law, although the U.S. Department of Education said earlier this year that there were not many such teachers (about 35,000 in all).

In its request, the Obama administration argues that without this extension, alternative programs wanting to avoid the scarlet warning letters might not supply as many teachers.

"Without this language, this No Child Left Behind provision would expire and alternative routes to certification programs may reduce the number of new teaching candidates they recruit and accept for the 2016-2017 school year. This would impact an otherwise steady source of new teachers and the millions of students they serve, most of whom are in high-need schools and in high-need subjects, including math and science," the administration said.

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