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Feds question tests taken by Michigan special ed teachers

DETROIT, Dec. 3, 2007 (AP): Secondary special education teachers in Michigan likely have lost their status as being highly qualified under federal standards because the state allowed them to take elementary certification tests.

Those teachers have until June 30, 2009, to become highly qualified—a status they need to comply with the federal No Child Left Behind Act. The Michigan Department of Education said it’s unclear how many of the state's 7,000 secondary special ed teachers used the elementary exam to become highly qualified.

“At the time, this was believed to be an appropriate means to meet the requirements—until guidance from the federal government directed us to amend the requirements,'' state education department spokeswoman Jan Ellis told the Detroit Free Press for a story Monday.

Marcie Lipsitt, a Birmingham parent who pushed the U.S. Department of Education to take action against Michigan, said many special ed teachers at the high school level end up teaching a range of students with learning disabilities.

“I’m not saying this is going to be utopia,'' she said of the new requirements. “But I believe it is going to raise the standard. It's going to raise the knowledge level of the teachers. And we are going to give these children a much better chance of reaching grade level proficiency.”

Others argue, however, that not all special education children do secondary level work.

Tess Firlit said most of the students she teaches at the training and transition center at Ottawa Hills High School in Grand Rapids have severe disabilities.

``If they read at a fifth-grade level, that’s high. They comprehend at a much lower level,” Firlit said.

Information from: Detroit Free Press, http://www.freep.com






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