Changes to Highly Qualified Teacher Requirements
Effective immediately, Arkansas public school teachers, school districts and charter schools may cease to follow the reporting and qualification requirements for HQT, but all should ensure that teachers are well prepared and licensed (unless waived) in the content they are teaching or are expected to teach. Current licensure requirements remain in effect. Special education teachers must also meet new requirements outlined in ESSA.
Reason for the Change
In December 2015 President Obama signed the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965. ESSA replaces the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) of 2001.
Under ESSA school districts and states are responsible for improving the quality and effectiveness of teachers. ESSA eliminates the HQT provision of NCLB, but replaces it with the following. The state must:
- Identify disparities of low income and minority students being disproportionately taught by ineffective, inexperienced, unqualified or out-of-field teachers;
- Have a mechanism to address these disparities; and
- Notify parents regarding teacher qualifications.
How the Department Plans to Address the ESSA Requirements
The Arkansas Department of Education has undertaken two important initiatives to address the ESSA requirements:
1) The ADE has developed a working plan for the equitable distribution of teachers and resources.
2) The ADE is also in the process of redesigning the structure of educator licenses to ensure that all schools and all classes have qualified personnel teaching and leading in school districts. The new Arkansas Qualifications for Teaching will seek to maintain standards for quality teachers, provide flexibility for schools to hire effective teachers, and incentivize career advancement for educators through new licensure opportunities.