Friday, January 28, 2011


CONTACT:  Tim Ebner, CommunicationWorks, 202-955-9450, x317
Wynn Hausser, Public Advocates, 415-431-7430 x304; 650-619-1032

Organizations Join Forces in Urging Obama Administration, Congress to Reverse Course

Washington, D.C. – In an urgent letter sent Thursday to President Obama and key Congressional leaders, more than fifty organizations from across the country -- including civil rights, disability, parent, student, community and education groups -- criticized a provision signed into law last month lowering teaching standards required under the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB). The provision allows thousands of underprepared and inexperienced teachers to continue to be assigned disproportionately to low-income, minority, special education, and English language learner students and denies parents notification of the teachers’ underprepared status.

Intended to overturn a recent civil rights ruling won by low-income students and parents of color in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals (Renee v. Duncan), the provision was quietly added by key Congressional leaders into the Continuing Resolution (CR) to fund the government the day before the CR was passed on December 21, 2010.

In Renee v. Duncan, the Ninth Circuit struck down a Bush-era regulation that labeled teachers who have not met the standards for full state credentials as “highly qualified” from the first moment they begin training in alternative route preparation programs. The court ruled that the regulation patently conflicted with the unambiguously expressed intent of Congress in NCLB that only teachers “who have obtained” full credentials be deemed “highly qualified.” The designation is important under NCLB as all non-highly qualified teachers must be reported to parents and the public and cannot be concentrated in low-income, high-minority schools.

Urging the President and Congress to reverse course, the letter notes that the CR provision “disproportionately impacts our most vulnerable populations: low-income students and students of color, English language learners, and students with disabilities who are most often assigned such underprepared teachers.” Further, the provision “hides this disparate reality from parents and the public by disingenuously labeling teachers-in-training as ‘highly qualified’ and hindering advocacy for better prepared teachers.”

Evidence in Renee shows that two-thirds of alternate route trainees in California teach in schools with 75 percent or greater minority students, while around half teach special education students.

 “I don’t understand why Congress and the Administration are interfering with the victory we won in court,” said Maribel Heredia, a parent plaintiff in the Renee case. “I thought they supported equal access to experienced and fully-prepared teachers for the neediest students. We deserve at least the same quality of teachers as affluent communities.”

“It’s unacceptable that parents aren’t required to be notified when their child’s teacher is not qualified to teach school,” added Mark Halpert, parent leader with The National Center for Learning Disabilities. “We know that the academic needs of children with disabilities cannot be met by someone who is working to become a qualified teacher, but not there yet. When our children are not being taught by the highly qualified teachers they deserve, parents have a right to be told exactly why this is happening and when the situation will be rectified.”

League of United Latin American Citizens National President Margaret Moran echoed that sentiment with respect to English language learners. “These people have not yet been fully trained on how best to convey the subject matter, much less on how best to teach English and academic content to students who are still becoming proficient in English. Why are we continuing the status quo of allowing districts and states to send our students underprepared teachers while calling them ‘highly qualified?’”

“The civil rights community is highly disturbed by this effort to overturn a court victory won by community groups and low-income parents of color,” said Tanya Clay House, public policy director of the National Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights in Washington, D.C.. “Moreover, the fact that a major amendment of a primary federal education law being slipped into an appropriations bill at the eleventh hour is not how critical policies impacting our communities should be made."

The groups are calling for repeal of the CR provision and development of a transparent definition of teacher quality, along with a set of policies that will allow the nation to put a well-prepared and effective teacher in every classroom.

The following are available for comment:

John Affeldt, Managing Attorney, Public Advocates Inc., lead counsel in Renee v. Duncan, 415-431-7430, x301

Iris Chavez, Education Policy Coordinator, League of United Latin American Citizens, 202-833-6130

Maribel Heredia, parent plaintiff in Renee v. Duncan, 510-342-6570

Tanya Clay House, Public Policy Director, National Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, 202-662-8330

Candice Johnson, student plaintiff in Renee v. Duncan, 323-244-1306

Laura Kaloi, Public Policy Director, National Center for Learning Disabilities, 703-476-4894

For more information see the following blog posts.

Congress approves weird definition of 'highly qualified’ teachers, Valerie Strauss, Washington Post, definiti.html

Congress Lowering Standards for Teachers; Hiding Truth from Poor, Minority Parents, John Affeldt, Huffington Post,

LETTER SIGNATORIES (as of 1:30pm PST, 1/26/11)

Action United

Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment

Alliance for Multilingual Multicultural Education

American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education

American Association of State Colleges and Universities

American Federation of Teachers

ASPIRA Association

Association of University Centers on Disabilities

Autistic Self Advocacy Network

Bay Area Parent Leadership Action Network

California Association for Bilingual Education

California Latino School Boards Association

Californians for Justice

Californians Together

Campaign for Fiscal Equity

Campaign for Quality Education

Center for the Future of Teaching and Learning

Center for Teaching Quality

Citizens for Effective Schools

Coalition for Educational Justice

Council for Exceptional Children

Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates

Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund

Easter Seals

ELC, Education Law Center

FairTest, The National Center for Fair & Open Testing

Higher Education Consortium for Special Education

Justice Matters

Latino Elected and Appointed Officials National Taskforce on Education

Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law

Learning Disabilities Association of America

Los Angeles Educational Partnership

Movement Strategy Center


National Alliance of Black School Educators

National Center for Learning Disabilities

National Council for Educating Black Children

National Council of Teachers of English

National Disability Rights Network

National Down Syndrome Congress

National Down Syndrome Society

National Education Association

National Latino/a Education Research and Policy Project

National League of United Latin American Citizens


Parents for Unity

Philadelphia Education Fund

Public Advocates Inc.

Public Education Network

Rural School and Community Trust

RYSE Center

School Social Work Association of America

Teacher Education Division of the Council for Exceptional Children

Texas Association for Chicanos and Higher Education

United Church of Christ Justice & Witness Ministries

Youth Together

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