Utah Education Officials Buck Bush's Law

Utah Education Officials Buck Bush's Law

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(Clearfield-AP) -- Utah education officials have decided to sidestep a federal education requirement and spare teachers' feelings by deeming nearly all of them highly qualified until new state regulations are in place.

President Bush's "No Child Left Behind" law orders states to have all teachers of subjects from English to arts categorized as "highly qualified" by the end of the 2005-2006 school year.

This can mean requiring new teachers to have a major in the subjects they teach or passing a state-sponsored test relating to the subject.

Joan Patterson is the educator licensing coordinator for the state Office of Education.

She put together Utah's numbers and said 95 percent of public school classes are taught by highly qualified teachers. She said doing so was a good-faith attempt to be accurate and a way not to insult teachers.

Paterson's actual numbers show only about 25 percent of teachers had degrees in the content area they were teaching.

Another 70 percent were given the benefit of the doubt and labeled as "interim highly qualified" because they met Utah's definition of "qualified."

Patterson said the numbers reported to the government next year will be more accurate. She thinks the actual number of teachers meeting the federal standard of "qualified" will be around 58 percent of the state's 23 thousand teachers.

The state could reject the law's requirements. But that could cost the state 100 (M)million dollars in federal funding, including funds that help disadvantaged and at-risk students.

Educators are working on state regulations that would better reflect veteran teachers' service and ability and still make the state eligible for federal money. Those regulations would have to pass the state Board of Education but wouldn't need federal approval.

(Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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