The US Department of Education has announced some modifications--again--to the highly qualified teacher provision. While districts are supposed to be assigning the same percentage of highly qualified teachers to all schools regardless of poverty level, the Department is now requiring states to report their efforts for their elementary schools only. The official reasoning is that the actual level of poverty in district secondary schools isn't really known, because high school students traditionally refuse to apply for free or reduced lunch status to avoid being seen as poor-even in schools where all the kids are poor. The Department might have considered requiring states to report the average poverty level of all the elementary schools feeding into a given middle or secondary school, using the average for all the feeder schools to assess the appropriate distribution of teachesr, but that might not have jived with its penchant for flexibility.
On another front, the Department has sensibly dropped the requirement that states report on the number of teachers receiving "high-quality professional development." Apparently their working definition of "high-quality" was a little too fuzzy to allow for rigorous data collection. A spade is a spade.
Lastly, the Department is demanding more detail from states on the certification status of teachers who have not yet attained HQT status. The move may indicate that the Department will be cracking down on states' loose interpretations of what it means to be enrolled in an alternate route program. Some states are apparently claiming that Teachers Formerly Known As Emergency Certified are now "enrolled" in alternate route programs, which has the effect of buying these teachers another three years before they have to meet HQT status. The feds are particularly curious about how states are classifying their special ed teachers--as they should be. States have made little progress on figuring out how to get special ed teachers highly qualified in all of the subjects they teach, with most states just claiming it is an impossible goal to meet. Without better guidance on how to convert special ed teachers with no subject matter preparation to HQT, the gamesmanship and obstinacy on the part of states is likely to increase.