Spellings soft on states?
Out West, states which are usually hotbeds for the Grand Old Party continue to be the source of much consternation for the US Department of Ed, which is working hard to squelch the Western mutiny against NCLB.
At the end of February, the Utah state legislature took a shot at the feds by introducing HB135, legislation that would indirectly opt Utah out of NCLB by giving the state's own educational goals "priority over NCLB"?similar to another bill introduced in the state legislature a year ago. The feds hastily took action, traveling to the state on February 23rd to meet with legislators and school officials to hammer out a mutually agreeable deal that would keep NCLB alive in the Beehive State. The result of the meeting, enumerated in a letter of 'common understanding' faxed to state officials on March 1st, was essentially yet another cave on HQT enforcement, following on the heels of a similar decision for North Dakota. Utah?s 8,500 elementary teachers will now be considered 'highly qualified' if they have earned a bachelor?s degree, attained state certification, and taught for three years while earning positive evaluations from their principals?all this in lieu of what the state was supposed to have been doing since 2002: implementing a subject matter test that all elementary teachers must pass.
The feds may have yielded on elementary teachers, but in its March 1st letter, US Department of Education officials made it clear that they are not relenting on what special education teachers must do to prove they are highly qualified. The feds are allowing Utah to come up with some way of determining HQT status for rural teachers who teach several core subjects, probably because they are as puzzled as anyone about how to deal with that thorny area.