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June 17, 2003

State Board accepts proposed criteria for “highly qualified” teachers under federal law

The Illinois State Board of Education has adopted Illinois criteria for meeting the requirements of the federal No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 (NCLB) for highly qualified teachers. NCLB requires that all teachers of core academic subjects be highly qualified by the end of the 2005–2006 school year.

NCLB distinguishes between new and current, or veteran, teachers. “Current” teachers are those who were first certified in Illinois on or before June 30, 2002. The new Illinois criteria require that current teachers hold a valid certificate for the grade level of assignment and meet one of the following five options:

  1. Pass the Elementary/Middle Grades Test or the subject-area test for their area of teaching responsibility.
  2. Have a major, or coursework equivalent to a major, in the area of teaching responsibility.
  3. Have a master’s degree or other advanced degree or credential in the area of teaching responsibility.
  4. Be certified by the National Board of Professional Teaching Standards in the area of teaching responsibility.
  5. Have an endorsement, or its coursework equivalent, that is sufficient to meet the Illinois minimum requirements for the area of teaching responsibility; have teaching experience in the area of teaching responsibility; and have engaged in continuing professional development in the area of teaching responsibility.

“New” teachers are defined as those who were first certified in Illinois on or after July 1, 2002. The criteria for new teachers identify the certification the new teacher must hold for a given teaching assignment and the options available for demonstrating subject-area competence. In general, a candidate can demonstrate competence by passing a subject-area test, holding a master’s or other advanced degree in the subject area, or having an endorsement in the subject area or coursework equivalent to a major.

All teachers, new or veteran, who were newly hired to teach in Title I–supported programs must have met the criteria for being a highly qualified teacher beginning with the 2002–2003 school year. School districts are expected to use federal funds to annually increase the percentage of classes taught by highly qualified teachers, with the goal that all teachers who are teaching core academic subjects be highly qualified by the end of the 2005–2006 school year. Parents must be notified if their child has been taught in a core academic subject area for four or more consecutive weeks by a teacher who does not meet the criteria necessary to be highly qualified.

The State Board chose to exclude all special education teachers (whether new or current) from the new criteria, pending further guidance from Congress and the U.S. Department of Education. Reauthorization of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act is expected to address the qualifications that special education teachers must meet to be considered highly qualified. Until that happens, or until the federal government clarifies its expectations, Illinois special education teachers will not be addressed by requirements of the No Child Left Behind Act.

Last September, the State Board approved a draft definition of a highly qualified teacher. That definition has been revised based on subsequent guidance from USDE. Some highlights of the new criteria:

  • Middle grade teachers have several options for being considered highly qualified. Elementary certificate holders who pass the Elementary/Middle Grades Test are highly qualified, as are secondary certificate holders who have demonstrated subject-area competence through a subject-area test, coursework, or advanced degrees in the area of teaching assignment. In addition, middle grade teachers in a departmental setting may be highly qualified by holding the middle grade endorsement or its coursework equivalent.
  • Holders of provisional certificates based on an out-of-state certificate will be considered to be highly qualified.
  • Holders of Transitional Bilingual Certificates (Type 29) are considered to be highly qualified if they hold a major or pass a subject-area test, participate in a program that provides induction/mentoring/professional development, and are continuously enrolled in a program to fulfill state requirements for certification at the early childhood, elementary, secondary or K–12 level.

Go to to access the specific requirements of the new criteria.

Illinois State Board of Education
100 North First Street
Springfield, IL 62777