07/12/04 — Schools seek waiver on lateral-entry teachers

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Schools seek waiver on lateral-entry teachers

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on July 12, 2004 1:57 PM

Wayne County public school officials say they need another year to comply with a federal law requiring "highly qualified" teachers in schools that receive federal funding.

Wayne, like other counties across the state, needs a one-year extension to continue hiring lateral-entry teachers, say school officials.

Lateral-entry teachers are those who have a degree in a particular subject and can teach in the schools while they attempt to become state certified.

According to a public notice published over the weekend, the school system is requesting a one-year waiver to adhere to the federal No Child Left Behind law pertaining to the hiring of qualified teachers.

The waiver would be in effect for next school year, allowing lateral-entry teachers to be hired to work in Title 1 schools -- schools where there are a large percentage of students who qualify for free or reduced lunch.

But Dr. Willette Wooten, director of federal programs with the school system, says the waiver actually applies to all 31 schools in the county.

She said the request relates to No Child Left Behind, but is also in line with the Education Flexibility Partnership Act of 1999, a public law better known as "Ed-flex." The legislation transferred authority for granting waivers of federal statues to state agencies, and North Carolina was among the states approved.

She said the law requires that all teachers of core academic subjects in Title 1 schools hired after the first of the 2002-2003 school year be "highly qualified." The waiver is designed to meet at least one of the state's two educational goals: quality of instruction and improvements to academic performance.

She said North Carolina has invoked its authority to issue waivers, which will be in effect for the 2004-2005 school year. The waiver gives the state and Wayne County a reprieve in order to comply with No Child Left Behind's 2005-2006 deadline of ensuring the most highly qualified teachers are hired. School systems across the state were expected to request the waiver, Dr. Wooten said.

The local application must be sent to the state Department of Public Instruction by Thursday. Comments from the public were due today. The ad run in Friday's and Sunday's newspapers seeking comment said the deadline was today for written comment.

"We tried to provide an opportunity for parents and teachers to comment on the waiver," she said. "We will share all comments that we receive with the Department of Public Instruction."

The waiver, she said, pertains to all public schools, not just those receiving federal funding. She said she did not have statistics regarding the number of teachers needed for the fall, but said she is not concerned at this point.

She said she expects the state to respond to the request in a timely manner, but until the decision is made, the school system will continue to operate in accord with the law.

"Until we have been granted Ed-flex authority, in the absence of that, we will not have the flexibility to hire lateral-entry teachers," she said. "We're required to comply with the law.

"We're moving forward, addressing the issue of highly qualified teachers, professional development, and all the components involved."