Provisions of the federal legislation known as the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act require that all teachers of core academic subjects be "highly qualified" by the end of the 2005-06 school year with teachers newly hired after the first day of instruction for the 2002-03 school year required to be "highly qualified" when hired. (See TEA's Guidance for the Implementation of NCLB Highly Qualified Teacher Requirements.)

As a result of TCTA efforts, the U.S. Department of Education (USDE) approved Texas’ revised highly qualified plan, an action that not only extended the deadline to meet highly qualified requirements to the end of the 2006-07 school year, but gave secondary experienced teachers who have been determined to be "highly qualified" and are subsequently reassigned out-of-field the ability to use HOUSE until the end of the 2008-09 school year. Districts must use at least 5 percent of their Title 1, Part A funds to help teachers become "highly qualified."

The Act specifies that core academic subjects are English, reading or language arts, mathematics, science, foreign languages, civics and government, economics, arts, history and geography.

Definition of "highly qualified"

To be "highly qualified" under the NCLB Act, a teacher must have:

  • At least a bachelor’s degree;

AND

  • Full state certification* (includes probationary certificates in some circumstances, and for charter school teachers, state certification requirements specific to charter schools);

AND

  • Demonstrated competency in the core academic subject area assigned.

Demonstrating competency

The options for demonstrating subject competency differ for elementary (EC-5) and secondary (6-12) teachers*, as well as for new and experienced teachers. "New" is defined as a teacher who has never taught elementary, middle or high school. "Experienced" is defined as a teacher who has previously taught elementary, middle or high school.

For new elementary teachers, the only option for demonstrating subject competency is passage of the applicable state certification exam. For experienced elementary teachers, there are two options: pass the applicable state certification exam OR meet a "high, objective, uniform standard of evaluation" (HOUSE).

For new secondary teachers, the options are to pass the applicable certification exam OR have an academic major or coursework equivalent for the subject taught (i.e., 24 semester hours, with 12 of the hours being upper-division (junior- or senior-level) courses in the core academic subject area). For experienced secondary teachers, the options are to pass the applicable certification exam OR have an academic major or coursework equivalent to the subject taught OR meet HOUSE.

The USDE issued a “reinterpretation” of the “highly qualified” requirements for certain elementary teachers (defined in Texas as EC-5 teachers*) new to the profession when hired for the 2009-10 school year, holding subject-specific certification or EC-12 special education certification, to take and pass an additional generalist certification exam in order to be highly qualified.

Affected teachers include those holding certification in 4-8 math, 4-8 science, 4-8 social studies, 4-8 math/science, 4-8 ELA/reading, 4-8 ELA/reading/social studies and EC-12 special education. According to the TEA, passing the TExES EC-4, EC-6, or 4-8 generalist; TExES EC-4, EC-6, or 4-8 bilingual generalist; or TExES EC-4, EC-6, or 4-8 ESL generalist will meet the requirement.

The USDE agreed to grandfather new elementary teachers hired prior to the 2009-10 school year who had already been determined to be highly qualified under the former interpretation, as long as the teacher remains in the same teaching assignment, or if they are documented as meeting HOUSE.

*On Feb. 19, 2014, TEA announced that it had requested and received from the U.S. Dept. of Education, permission to change sixth grade from an elementary to a secondary grade level designation for purposes of determining the NCLB highly qualified teacher status, effective immediately.

“Highly qualified” rules eased in certain situations

  • Multiple-subject secondary teachers in rural schools who are “highly qualified” in one of the subjects they teach at the time of hire can use HOUSE to demonstrate competence in additional subjects taught within three years of the hire date.
  • Multi-subject special education teachers who are new to teaching special education, if highly qualified in language arts, mathematics or science at the time of hire, may use HOUSE to demonstrate competence in additional subjects within two years of the date of hire.  The HOUSE option may only be implemented after completing one year of teaching experience. This option applies to special education teachers who are new to the teaching profession or teaching special education for the first time.
  • Visiting international teachers, who participate in foreign teacher exchange programs officially recognized by the State Board for Educator Certification and the Texas Education Agency, may use HOUSE to demonstrate highly qualified teacher status for a period not to exceed three years.
  • Any experienced secondary teacher may continue to use HOUSE to demonstrate subject matter competency for any course accepted by the Texas State Board of Education for required graduation credit for documenting highly qualified teacher status. This includes Career and Technology Education courses and other teachers who are teaching CTE or other courses for graduation credit.

Special education teachers

The law requires experienced special education teachers to demonstrate competency in every core subject area they teach, just like all other experienced teachers, either through HOUSE, passing the applicable certification exam, or the extra option for secondary teachers of having an academic major or coursework equivalent to the subject taught by the end of the 2006-07 school year.

The law does contain some options for certain circumstances:

  • For special education teachers who teach core academic subjects exclusively to students who are assessed pursuant to alternate achievement standards (STAAR-Alt), if the teacher is providing instruction at the elementary (PK-5*) level, even if the special education teacher is at the secondary level, the teacher may meet the highly qualified teacher requirements for an elementary school teacher; if the teacher is teaching the same population of students and providing instruction at the secondary level, the teacher is considered “highly qualified” by demonstrating the subject matter knowledge appropriate to the level of instruction being provided, as determined by the Agency, needed to effectively teach to those standards. For this purpose, the Agency has defined “appropriate level of instruction” as the Secondary Special Education HOUSE option.
  • Experienced secondary special education teachers can meet “highly qualified” requirements via HOUSE for secondary special education teachers.

*On Feb. 19, 2014, TEA announced that it had requested and received from the U.S. Dept. of Education, permission to change sixth grade from an elementary to a secondary grade level designation for purposes of determining the NCLB highly qualified teacher status, effective immediately.

HOUSE options assist visiting international teachers

Visiting international teachers who participate in foreign teacher exchange programs officially recognized by the State Board for Educator Certification and the Texas Education Agency, may use HOUSE to demonstrate “highly qualified” teacher status for a period not to exceed three years.

Alternative Certification Program (ACP)

a. Teachers in ACP programs, who are not yet fully certified may be considered to meet the certification requirements in the NCLB definition of a highly qualified teacher if they are participating in an SBEC-approved alternative route to certification program under which they:

(1) receive, BEFORE AND WHILE TEACHING, high-quality professional development that is sustained, intensive, and classroom-focused in order to have a positive and lasting impact on classroom instruction before and while teaching;

(2) participate in a program of intensive supervision that consists of structured guidance and regular ongoing support for teachers, or a teacher mentoring program;

(3) assume functions as a teacher only for a specified period of time not to exceed three years; and

(4) demonstrate satisfactory progress toward full certification as prescribed by state statute.

b. Holds a minimum of a bachelor’s degree; and

c. Has demonstrated subject matter competency in each of the academic subjects in which the teacher is assigned to teach, in a manner determined by TEA and in compliance with Section 9101(23) of ESEA.

(1) For new elementary ACP interns, this would be demonstrated by passing a rigorous State test of subject knowledge and teaching skills in reading, writing, mathematics, and other areas of the basic elementary school curriculum (WHICH CONSISTS of passing a TExES certification exam or tests in reading, writing, mathematics, and other areas of the basic elementary school curriculum).

(2) For new secondary ACP interns, this would be either passing the appropriate TExES exam or having an academic major or graduate degree or the coursework equivalent to an undergraduate academic major [i.e., 24 semester hours, with 12 of the hours being upper-division (junior- or senior-level) courses] in the core academic subject areas in which they teach.