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Highlights

During the 2001-2002 school year, more than 400,000 special education teachers provided instructional services to approximately 6 million students with disabilities in U.S. schools. Two federal laws contain teacher qualification requirements that apply to special education teachers: the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLBA) and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). Given the committee's interest in issues related to highly qualified special education teachers, we are providing information about (1) the state certification requirements, including the use of alternative certification programs, for special education teachers, and how they relate to NCLBA requirements; (2) the factors that facilitate or impede state efforts to ensure that special education teachers meet NCLBA requirements; and (3) how different offices in the Department of Education (Education) assist states in addressing NCLBA teacher requirements.

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Recommendations

Recommendations for Executive Action

Agency Affected Recommendation Status
Department of Education 1. To better address states' concerns about their special education teachers being positioned to meet NCLBA teacher requirements, the Secretary of Education should provide additional assistance to states on strategies to meet the requirements and clarification of subject matter competency requirements for special education teachers.
Closed - Implemented
In July 2006, the U.S. Department of Education (Education) reported that it had monitored all but two states--Massachusetts and Wisconsin--and provided additional assistance on strategies to assist states and school districts in understanding how special education teachers can meet the highly qualified teacher requirements. The department also reported that it planned to monitor the remaining two states later in 2006. In addition, Education reported that it has offered to include experts in areas for which the states are asking for additional technical assistance in understanding or implementing the highly qualified teacher requirements, as they apply to special education teachers, in future highly qualified teacher monitoring visits to each state. According to Education, departmental support to states in this area will be provided by Office of Elementary and Secondary Education staff working in consultation with Office of Special Education Programs and Office of General Counsel staff. In addition, Education reported it issued revised non-regulatory guidance on the highly qualified teacher requirements in August 2005.
Department of Education 2. To continue to improve policy development and technical assistance that Education's offices provide to states on NCLBA requirements, the Department of Education should formalize in writing coordination efforts between the Office of Elementary and Secondary Education and the Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP). For example, such efforts could include defining how OSEP's expertise and staff would be involved in developing NCLBA policies and guidance related to special education teachers and in providing technical assistance to states.
Closed - Implemented
In July 2006, Education reported that its Office of Elementary and Secondary Education (OESE) and Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) have worked closely together to ensure that policy is developed and communicated consistently, under the leadership of the NCLB Coordinating Board. For example, the Department reported that OESE and OSEP closely collaborated in preparing the response to our report, which was jointly issued by the Assistant Secretary of Elementary and Secondary Education, and the Acting Deputy Assistant Secretary for Special Education and Rehabilitative Services. According to Education, that document described in detail the coordination efforts between OESE and OSEP. Education also reported that OESE and OSEP will continue to work together on future NCLB and IDEA policy decisions that may affect teachers, to ensure that state and local officials understand how the highly qualified teacher requirements apply to special educators and to disseminate promising practices that can assist state and local agencies to implement the highly qualified requirements for all teachers of core academic subjects. As of June 2008, ED formalized these efforts, thereby addressing our recommendation.

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