This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2006, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
The federal Department of Education announced Wednesday that Utah is among four states that will be visited by federal education officials who will audit teacher quality data. The state Office of Education also must submit revised teacher quality plans by Nov. 1 and give monthly progress updates to the federal government as it implements its plan. Hawaii, Missouri and Wisconsin are under similar strictures.
"If the state doesn't meet the timelines, that's when the Department of Education could refuse federal funding," said René Islas, chief of staff for the federal office of elementary and secondary education. "But we have had conversations with Utah, and they are intending to submit a plan .. . . I think we will be in a positive position by Nov. 1."
Under NCLB, states must develop plans to show that all teachers of core academic subjects hold credentials in their subject areas and that poor and minority students have equal access to qualified teachers.
Nine states developed teacher quality plans that satisfied all criteria outlined by the department; all the others must submit new plans.
Patti Harrington, state school superintendent, said she informed the federal office June 1 that Utah needed more time to involve teachers and school administrators in creating its teacher quality plan, and would comply by Oct. 1.
She is unhappy about national publicity indicating Utah didn't meet teacher quality requirements.
"The federal government doesn't understand how to lead schools," Harrington said. "They think it's all by mandate, by threat of loss of funding and by public humiliation."
Fears that federal education funding might be withdrawn dissuaded Utah's Legislature from continuing its early rebellion against NCLB, although many lawmakers consider the law to be a federal intrusion onto state turf.
A report issued earlier this week by Education Trust examined the teacher quality plans submitted by states to the Department of Education, but that report focused on only one of six requirements - that states ensure poor or minority children are not taught by inexperienced, unqualified, or out-of-field teachers at higher rates than are other children.
The Department of Education also requires states to:
l Identify districts and schools where significant numbers of teachers do not meet "highly qualified teacher" standards.
l Identify steps being taken to quickly bring all teachers to highly qualified status.
l List the services the state will provide to help districts and schools improve their teachers' qualifications.
l Explain how the state office will deal with districts and schools that fail to reach the goal of having all teachers highly qualified by the end of the 2006-07 school year.
Harrington said Utah will comply with the requirements, but only after teachers and schools buy in.
"Utah is going to do the right thing by teachers, para-educators and administrators - by listening, and involving them in this process," she said. "They are the ones who will implement it. If Washington doesn't believe that, that's fine."