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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- Close to 95 percent of Utah teachers will be classified as "highly qualified" under an agreement between the state and the U.S. Department of Education.
Previously, only 50 percent were considered highly qualified under the No Child Left Behind standards.
"We have known all along that Utah has extraordinary teachers," Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr. said Wednesday. "The approval received today will recognize the superior quality of teaching, which is delivered in the classrooms throughout the state."
The federal department agreed to accept the High Objective Uniform State Standard of Evaluation, which will allow veteran teachers to meet NCLB standards even without specialized degrees.
This is consistent with tests of Utah teacher capabilities, said Patti Harrington, Utah's Superintendent of Public Education.
"We have worked closely with the governor's office to convince the federal government of the exceptional quality of educators which Utah employs today," she said in a statement. "Utah continues to exceed national averages in almost every category of assessment and accountability."
Earlier this month, the federal department made a similar concession to North Dakota.
"Once they had sort of capitulated to North Dakota, we felt there would be a good chance to get a similar finding here," said Utah Education Association President Pat Rusk.
However, it appears that only parts of Utah's testing and school accountability system, U-PASS, may be used to meet NCLB requirements, though the issue is still up in the air,
State associate superintendent Ray Timothy said, "It looks like we'll have to do a dual-type system. We'll continue to jump through NCLB hoops if we have to, but ... not at the expense of U-PASS."
The actions come as the Utah Legislature considers two bills challenging NCLB.
House Bill 135, sponsored by Rep. Margaret Dayton, R-Orem, would give Utah's educational goals priority over NCLB.
House Joint Resolution 3, sponsored by Rep. Kory Holdaway, R-Taylorsville, states Utah's U-PASS accountability system meets the spirit of NCLB.
(Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)