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Licensing standards OK'd for teachers

The State Board of Education on Friday adopted new standards that should align a federal mandate more readily with state teacher-licensing requirements.

The federal mandate — required by the No Child Left Behind legislation — says all educators must be "highly qualified" in the subjects they teach by the 2005-06 school year.

Many elementary teachers' degrees are in elementary education. They did not major in a specific subject, such as math, science or English. Thus, they didn't meet the requirement.

Under the new state standards, those teachers may move to highly qualified status either by submitting six semester hours of district-approved content credit; passing a state-approved, standardized content test or meeting the "High Objective Uniform State System of Evaluation" criteria by earning points through years of teaching or taking classes in a core subject.

New teachers coming into the profession are given content tests upon certification. Teachers who are not highly qualified — around 71 percent — will be considered as such on an interim basis but must meet the new requirements within their current five-year re-licensure cycle.<

However, since teachers will receive highly qualified status when they are relicensed, around 40 percent will not have been given the designation before the 2005-06 school year.

Joan Patterson, coordinator of educator licensing, said that the guidelines for meeting federal requirements are unclear and the board will proceed on the basis of "we haven't been told no."