State Commissioner of Education Robert Scott this afternoon said his agency will press federal education officials to reverse a decision that could strip credentials from thousands of teachers and cause districts administrative headaches.

"The real issue here is, you don't do something like this after school starts," Scott said in an interview this afternoon. "And you don't just decide it in a letter or an email... They leave themselves open to criticism and litigation when they do something outside the rule-making process."

When U.S. Department of Education monitors ruled recently that some newly hired elementary teachers had not met federal requirements to be considered "highly qualified," they essentially made a new rule without going through the standard process or collecting input from Texas. The teachers in question had not taken a general education exam, but rather subject-specific tests.

TEA officials insist the federal interpretation creates new law; a federal spokeswoman disagreed earlier this week, saying Texas simply had not followed existing rules.

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The state's policy had been the same during a previous federal monitoring visit, in February 2006, and the monitors never raised an issue, TEA officials said. Scott said he generally understands the federal reasoning in requiring all elementary teachers to take the general test — but it should only apply to teachers hired next year, not those who already met the existing standard.

His office planned to send a letter today to Washington to make the request formal.

"We're just asking them not to make it retroactive," Scott said.

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