(CN) – The 9th Circuit dismissed a lawsuit claiming that the Department of Education lowered standards in poor and minority school districts by allowing underqualified teachers to be considered “highly qualified” under the No Child Left Behind Act.
The Act requires that students be taught by “highly qualified” teachers.
In 2002, the Department of Education issued regulations defining “highly qualified” to include teachers who are “participating in an alternative route to certification program,” such as interns.
A group of parents and students, and two California community organizations, sued in 2007, claiming the regulations allowed school districts in low-income and minority areas to hire thousands of “alternative-route” teachers, and treated them as fully credentialed teachers. As a result, those schools shirked their duty to provide highly qualified teachers, the plaintiffs claimed.
A three-judge appellate panel in San Francisco affirmed dismissal of the suit for lack of standing. Even if the plaintiffs won their case against the federal government, the 2-1 majority reasoned, they were not guaranteed relief, because the states set teacher certification requirements.
California deems alternative-route teachers “highly qualified.”
“The problem here is that because the meaning of full certification is a matter of state law, California could still determine, as it has already, that teachers participating in alternative routes to certification were ‘highly qualified’ even if the federal regulation was declared void,” Judge Nelson wrote.
Judge Fletcher dissented, calling it “unsupported speculation” to assume that California would implement laws that contradict federal regulations.