Examining educators of the deaf as “highly qualified” teachers: roles and responsibilities under IDEA and NCLB.
Educators of the deaf were long considered “highly qualified” if they obtained state licensure from approved deaf education programs. But the No Child Left Behind Act (2001) redefined qualifications based on core academic content areas, without recognizing disability-specific expertise. NCLB’s reauthorization will provide opportunities for examining definitions of “highly qualified” and ensuring that both general and special educators are appropriately prepared. Under the Individuals With Disabilities Education Act, educators of the deaf are primarily responsible for supporting implementation of each assigned student’s individualized education program. When done skillfully and knowledgeably, IEP execution maximizes learning outcomes, and therefore would support NCLB mandates for improved student achievement. Instead of academic attainment alone, the primary “qualification” of educators of the deaf should be training and expertise in providing communication, learning, and assistive technology supports that allow access to academic content and, ultimately, address deaf students’ historical underachievement.