TMEA Letter to U.S. Department of Education

U.S. Department of Education letter waiving General Assessment requirement for elementary music teachers

From the February Southwestern Musician Executive Director's Notes:

The Texas Education Agency sent a letter to school districts this past October advising them of the results of a U.S. Department of Education audit relating to teacher certification. It mandated that to be in compliance with the “highly qualified” requirements of No Child Left Behind, over 30,000 Texas teachers new to the profession and hired for the 2009–2010 year would have to take a generalist exam to earn and maintain the “highly qualified” status. This exam assesses knowledge in reading, writing, mathematics, science and social studies. College students on a track to be an elementary music teacher would have to take and pass the test as well. The audit report grandfathered teachers who had been in the classroom more than one year.

The negative impact such a decision could have on the quality of music instruction in our state could be of monumental proportions. TMEA worked closely with Commissioner of Education Robert Scott’s office to express our concerns on this issue. We also submitted a letter to the Department of Education detailing why such a ruling could result in less qualified music teachers in the classroom rather than more highly qualified teachers. With USDE officials continuing to base their decision on the literal interpretation of the law, we were left with little optimism that we would win the battle.

On December 28th, however, the Assistant Secretary of Education sent a letter to TMEA stating that they believed our appeal was reasonable and would grant a waiver to TEA for single-subject elementary teachers to not be required to take and pass a generalist exam if they had passed a state-approved exam in the subject area they teach. Certainly we were elated with the ruling and the federal government’s willingness to side with us. I am confident our letter made a difference, and I would like to recognize Dr. Caia McCullar, Dallas Baptist University; Dr. Richard Fiese, Houston Baptist University; Dr. Michele Henry, Baylor University; and Dr. Jan Killian, Texas Tech University, for their tireless efforts assisting this office in documenting our concerns. I believe that over time this victory for TMEA will prove to be one of the most notable accomplishments of our association in protecting and preserving quality music education in the elementary classrooms in our state. Links to the letter TMEA sent to the Department of Education and their response to us are linked above.