Ensuring that teachers are "highly qualified" is a key part of the No Child Left Behind legislation of 2001. The definition of a highly qualified teacher varies depending on the grade level --elementary, middle or high school -- the number of years experience a teacher has, and the state. High school teachers are not generalists, so they need advanced content knowledge. It is important that they are highly qualified to prepare students for college or career.
Highly Qualified High School Teachers
Federal guidelines require high school teachers to have at least a bachelor's degree in the subject they teach. Alternatively, they may have a degree in another area and demonstrate mastery of a subject by passing a subject test. For instance, a high school English teacher might have a bachelor's degree in English Literature or a bachelor's degree in Sociology and pass a teacher certification test in high school English. States may have additional requirements for determining highly qualified high school teachers.
Elementary school teachers often instruct students in a variety of subjects throughout the school day. High school teachers usually teach in a single subject area. For example, a math teacher may teach algebra, geometry, trigonometry and calculus, but will not be expected to teach history or English. Because they only teach one subject, high school teachers are expected to be experts in their field. It is sometimes possible for a high school teacher to teach multiple subjects if he or she is considered highly qualified in multiple areas.
Advanced Content Knowledge
Highly qualified high school teachers should to be well-versed in their content areas, because they need to impart high-level knowledge to their students in specific courses. A high school English teacher may teach courses such as British Literature, American Literature or Elizabethan Drama. In order for the teacher to instruct students on this level, it is essential to have advanced content knowledge. Some high school teachers who have gone through additional training or professional development may also teach Advanced Placement courses. Students who perform well on AP exams can get college credit for the courses, so it is important for their teachers to possess advanced knowledge.
Equipping Students For College and Career
High school teachers provide students with the skills and knowledge they need for career or college. It is important that high school teachers are extremely competent practitioners who possess not only a high level of content knowledge, but also the teaching skills to effectively educate students. According to the United States Department of Labor, approximately 68 percent of American high school graduates attend college or university, so it is essential to equip these students for success in higher education.
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