Highly Qualified Staff
Research has demonstrated that excellent teachers are the most important in-school factor contributing to student achievement. The AFT believes that all children should be taught by staff who are well-prepared and highly qualified—teachers who know their subject matter and how to teach it, supported by trained paraprofessionals.
NCLB defines several routes for teachers and paraprofessionals to become highly qualified. In particular, veteran teachers may demonstrate their qualifications by taking a test or by meeting a "high, objective uniform state standard of evaluation" (HOUSSE). The U.S. Department of Education has not required that all states offer this option, however, and many states have delayed the development of their HOUSSE plans, making it more difficult for teachers to meet the deadline set in the law to be "highly qualified." For paraprofessionals, the response by states to develop alternative routes to demonstrate excellence has been haphazard, and lax monitoring by the U.S. Department of Education has left many paraprofessionals with a shortened time frame in which to meet the education requirements.
Furthermore, to assure a high-quality workforce more must be done. The AFT will continue to urge the Congress and the U.S. Department of Education to address staff quality issues in NCLB by:
- Requiring states to develop high-caliber teacher induction systems to ensure that new teachers receive the support they need to provide effective instruction during their beginning years;
- Requiring that all districts provide ongoing, job specific professional development for paraprofessionals to ensure they maintain the skills necessary to work with students;
- Providing incentive grants to districts to develop peer assistance and review programs that focus on the improvement of staff knowledge and skills;
- Providing incentives for local districts to develop compensation systems for teachers and paraprofessionals that have a competitive base pay and benefits for all and, when supported by both management and staff, provide opportunities for staff to improve their salary through the performance of additional responsibilities; and
- Requiring states to develop an accountability index for schools to ensure that high-need schools have the proper teaching and learning conditions and financial incentives in place to attract and retain high-quality staff.
AFT on Teacher Quality, updated June 2007
AFT on Paraprofessional Requirements, updated June 2007
ESEA-ER&D: A Perfect Fit, updated 2007
Q&A: Highly Qualified Teachers, updated April 2007