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Federal Government Says "Yes" to Utah's Definition of Highly Qualified Teachers

News Release
February 23, 2005
Salt Lake City, Utah - Utah Governor Jon M. Huntsman, Jr. today announced that an agreement has been reached with the U.S. Department of Education regarding the qualifications of Utah's teachers. The agreement states that more than 95% of Utah's public school teachers meet the standard of being "highly qualified."

"We have known all along that Utah has extraordinary teachers," said Governor Huntsman. "Initial indications from the federal government identified almost half of our teachers would not meet the original version of highly qualified status. The approval received today will recognize the superior quality of teaching which is delivered in the classrooms throughout our state."

Utah sought recognition for its teachers under the High Objective Uniform State Standard of Evaluation (HOUSSE), which was approved by the U.S. Department of Education. That allows veteran Utah teachers to meet the qualifications and requirements of the federal No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB).

"We would like to take this opportunity to inform Utah that the U.S. Department of Education agrees that the proposed HOUSSE procedures for evaluating the content knowledge of veteran elementary school teachers satisfy the requirements of the statute," said Robert M. Stonehill, U.S. Department of Education Deputy Director. "This acceptance is expected to give the 'highly qualified' status to almost 95% of Utah teachers."

"We've been guardedly optimistic about the newfound flexibility and partnership with the U.S. Department of Education," said Tim Bridgewater, Utah's Deputy of Public Education. "While we continue to have discussions on other areas of NCLB, we believe that this initial recognition of Utah's ability to assess the highly qualified status of our own teachers is a good beginning."

"The negotiations have been difficult," said Patti Harrington, Utah's Superintendent of Public Education. "We have worked closely with the Governor's office to convince the federal government of the exceptional quality of educators which Utah employs today. Utah continues to exceed national averages in almost every category of assessment and accountability. Nevertheless, more work needs to be done to determine the minimum standard for annual yearly progress in our schools and districts."

"The federal government should not be involved in a contract between individual teachers and school districts." Representative Margaret Dayton, sponsor of House Bill 135 said, "This is great news for our teachers and now the federal government should also recognize that UPASS will more than satisfy performance and progress goals for our schools and districts. That is what my bill is about."

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