July 28, 2003
Dear Chief State School Officers:
I want to take this opportunity to thank you and your staff for your efforts in implementing the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001. It has been a great opportunity for the Department of Education to work with all 50 States, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico, approving 52 accountability plans that truly leave no child behind.
The law recognizes that in order for schools to make adequate yearly progress, and for all students to be proficient against standards, schools must have a highly qualified teaching force - the backbone of a good education. By the end of the 2005-06 school year, schools must have highly qualified teachers in each classroom. In Title I schools, where students need the most assistance, all new hires must meet this requirement now. We realize that your efforts in this area are ongoing, and our goal is to provide you with guidance and technical assistance.
The provisions in the law are designed to help ensure that teachers are equipped to provide the best instruction possible for students. The requirements are clear, yet implementation can be complex. It is important to note that the law offers States much flexibility in determining certification requirements for new teachers, as well as competency in core content areas for experienced teachers. Resources are also available to States and districts for professional training and a wide range of other activities to strengthen teaching quality, especially in those schools with a high population of children in poverty.
We understand the great importance of the task you have, striving to meet both the spirit and the letter of the law. As Under Secretary Hickok mentioned in individual State meetings this winter, we want to be available to build on your efforts already in progress. For this reason, the Office of Elementary and Secondary Education within the U.S. Department of Education would like to send out members of our Teacher Assistance Corps to States over the coming months. We feel this process will be most helpful as you provide guidance to local education agencies.
The Teacher Assistance Corps members want to hear what is working in your State in the realm of teacher quality, share ideas that are working in other places around the country, provide advice for compliance issues, and assist in setting and meeting goals. Members of the corps are your peers, leaders in the field of teacher quality, and key Department staff. They will clarify any issues confused by rumor and misinformation, as well as work with your office to determine the best way for your State to ensure that all children have excellent teachers.
We are in the process of conducting pilot Teacher Assistance Corps visits and will begin fully implementing the initiative soon. Department staff will be in touch with your office, and we look forward to this conversation.
cc: Office of the Governor