The school year’s end approaches, and teachers in Ohio are scrambling to make sure they are “highly qualified” by the last day of class, as required by the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB).

Under NCLB, a teacher must have at least a bachelor’s degree, full state licensure, and competence in the subject areas they teach to be considered highly qualified. The requirement differs slightly for charter schools, where teachers may hold any state license (full, temporary, conditional, or substitute) and still be considered highly qualified. This gives charter schools the flexibility to hire non-traditional educators.

Despite Ohio’s best efforts to meet the federal highly qualified requirement, it is unlikely that all teachers in the state will be highly qualified by the end of the school year. As of late 2005, the Ohio Department of Education reported that just 92.5 percent of teachers met the federal definition of highly qualified. 


And what if Ohio fails to have 100 percent of its teachers rated highly qualified? Well, our state won’t be alone. Very few, if any, states are expected to have 100 percent of their teachers so labeled by this summer. U.S. Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings, recognizing this fact, announced last October that states will not lose federal funds if they are making good faith efforts to comply with the law. However, if they employ teachers that have not met the requirements, school leaders will have to send letters to parents alerting them to the fact that their children are being taught by non-highly qualified teachers. 

No matter what the labeling requirements of NCLB, it’s important for those passionate about quality education to remember that a bachelor’s degree plus content knowledge plus state licensure do not always equal a truly highly qualified teacher. For example, research has consistently shown large variations in teacher effectiveness regardless of whether they hold traditional state licensure. After reviewing the most current research available on teacher quality, the Brookings Institute concludes that teachers “with traditional certification do not outperform those without certification in promoting student achievement.” Moreover, there’s “little consistent evidence that graduate degree attainment can identify effective teachers.”

The usefulness of traditional, generic teacher licensure tests like the Praxis to confer highly qualified status has also been called into question recently. A study conducted by Dan Goldhaber of the University of Washington matched North Carolina teachers’ scores on the Praxis exam with their students’ skills on standardized tests. The study found almost no correlation.

Common sense says that the best way to identify teachers of true high quality is through the achievement of their students, and this argument is gaining ground. The Brookings report calls for lowering the barriers for becoming a teacher, identifying good teachers based on job performance, and offering bonus pay based on student achievement. 

The bottom line: We should not expect to see drastic changes in Ohio schools simply because more teachers meet the federal definition of a highly qualified teacher. Good credentials are useful to consider, but results in the classroom still matter most. 


Letter from Margaret Spellings to Chief State School Officers, October 2005. 

Implementation of the Highly Qualified Teacher Requirement in Ohio,” Legislative Office of Education Oversight, November 2005

 “Most States Say Teachers Meet Standards,” Staff and Wire Reports, Plain Dealer, April 16, 2006. 

Identifying Effective Teaching Using Performance on the Job, by Robert Gordon, Thomas J. Kane and Douglas O Staiger, Hamilton Project, Brookings Institution, April 2006.

Highly Qualified Teachers and Paraprofessionals in Charter Schools: A Guide for Charter School Authorizers, by Paul T. O’Neill, National Association of Charter School Authorizers, January 2006.


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