Just when we forgot what HQT even means!

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A recent U.S. Department of Education scuffle with Texas once again reveals more problems with the "highly qualified teacher" designation.

The genesis is the provision under NCLB stating that elementary teachers need to pass a broad test of subject matter to be considered highly qualified. True to form, but a big reason why there's not much substance to the HQT designation, Congress left it up to individual states to define what an elementary teacher actually is.

Unlike many states which define elementary as PK-5, Texas had indicated to the US ED that it considers elementary grades as PK-6...and subsequently shot itself in the foot.

Here's how. In Texas, a teacher in upper elementary grades can elect to become certified not just under its PK-4 credential but under a Grade 4-8 credential. Teachers choosing this latter route have the option of taking a single subject matter exam--reflecting a bit of confusion on the part of the state as to whether these teachers are more like middle school teachers or elementary teachers. For teachers who work in departmentalized middle schools, the single-subject test is the more logical choice, and better demonstrates their knowledge of the only subject they will teach.

But logic doesn't matter. Since Texas told the feds that it has defined elementary as PK-6, these teachers, classified as "elementary" aren't meeting the letter of the law.

US ED is insisting that many of the teachers caught up in this little mess, most of them 6th grade teachers, must now pass a multi-subject test. For its part, the state is disputing how many teachers will have to do so.

Meanwhile, Texas is phasing in a new elementary certification which will extend to 6th grade, but it isn't actually intending to do anything to fix the misalignment of Grade 4-8 certification with federal law.