Alaska Challenged By NCLB Teacher Requirements

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Alaska: Here's a problem that Congress might not have thought about when drafting No Child Left Behind. With 100 of Alaska's 506 schools employing three or fewer teachers, the state is having some difficulty complying with NCLB. NCLB requires that all teachers be "highly qualified" at every grade level, meaning that every teacher must possess a bachelor's in the subject, have passed a subject matter test, or demonstrate proficiency through some other state approved criteria in each of the core subjects they teach. But in Alaska and elsewhere, teachers sometimes have to wear a lot of hats. Alaska's sparsely staffed schools are facing the challenge of finding "super teachers" who are competent to teach multiple disciplines and grade levels.

Alaska's $41 million of federal Title I money may be at risk. In an effort to comply with the act, state officials have sought to loosen standards for what constitutes a qualified teacher in extremely small school districts, perhaps by ruling that an academic minor is sufficient for the designation a modification that thus far has been deemed unacceptable by the Department of Education.

For a more detailed explanation of the "highly qualified" requirements of NCLB, see the December 6, 2002 TQB.