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Melmer: NCLB rating no accident

South Dakota's favorable review for developing a plan to meet teacher quality standards under No Child Left Behind guidelines was no accident, state Secretary of Education Rick Melmer said Thursday.

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South Dakota's favorable review for developing a plan to meet teacher quality standards under No Child Left Behind guidelines was no accident, state Secretary of Education Rick Melmer said Thursday.

"Part of our success is that we tried to take the federal law seriously and implement the basic tenets of the law right away," Melmer said.

While some states attempted to modify NCLB demands, Melmer said, "we met them head-on."

States were supposed to meet NCLB requirements last year to get highly qualified teachers for all core academic classes, but none did. The states were ordered to submit new plans to meet the qualification requirements.

The federal Education Department this week announced that only nine states produced plans that successfully addressed all NCLB criteria. The states with acceptable plans are South Dakota, Kansas, Louisiana, Maryland, New Jersey, New Mexico, Nevada, Ohio and South Carolina.

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Melmer said South Dakota received a favorable rating, in part, because the state started testing teachers right away.

"We required that from the beginning. It wasn't always popular, and some states chose not to implement that right away, but that's what the federal government required," Melmer said.

Teachers who hold a master's degree, have a major in the subject area they teach, or who have three years experience teaching a subject are considered "highly qualified," said Mitchell Superintendent Joe Graves.

Graves said 100 percent of the Mitchell School District's teachers are highly qualified.

South Dakota's NCLB plan to meet the highly qualified teacher goal complied with federal demands in all six areas.

The state's plan:

n gave a detailed analysis of core academic classes in the state not taught by highly qualified teachers. Districts and schools that don't meet the HQT standard also were identified. Nine school districts were identified where "significant numbers of teachers" did not meet highly qualified teacher standards.

The report also identified reading and language arts as areas frequently taught by teachers who are not highly qualified.

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n said school districts without highly qualified teachers were to submit strategies to remedy the situation. It noted that nearly 50 percent of state schools met the 100 percent goal for highly qualified teachers.

n named the programs available to assist districts in meeting their state goals.

n gave information on how the state will help districts that don't meet highly qualified standards by the end of the 2006-2007 school year. The plan provides for "spot checks" of districts and technical assistance to districts making a good faith effort to reach the goal.

n stated South Dakota's intention to end the use of alternative teacher certification plans, called HOUSSE (High, Objective, Uniform State Standard of Evaluation), by the end of the 2006-2007 school year.

n offered an equity plan to ensure that poor or minority children are not taught by inexperienced teachers. The state report said that low-income, high-minority and isolated areas have a tough time attracting and retaining highly qualified teachers. NCLB reviewers said the state's equity plan offered a "thorough, measured and thoughtful approach to a very complex problem."

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