Tuesday, May 31, 2011

The "Highly Qualified Teacher" Farce

The No Child Left Behind Act (“NCLB”) became law in 2002 “to ensure that all children have a fair, equal, and significant opportunity to obtain a high quality education and reach, at a minimum, proficiency on challenging State academic achievement standards and state academic assessments.” To that end the law  mandates that all teachers must hold "full state certification" and be "highly qualified."

That sounds great, but what does it mean in practice? That depends on which side of Alice's looking glass you are on. In 2008 the Bush administration followed Alice through the mirror when they decided that tens of thousands of teachers in training, interns for example, were "highly qualified teachers." Then, ruling that black is in fact white, a federal court upheld that definition.

In other words, we are talking about rank beginners, students or recent graduates who are gaining, practical experience being highly qualified. In other words. Only in the Wonderland of public education could such jabberwocky be taken seriously.

It is some consolation that, in an uncommon turn of events, the three-judge panel reversed itself and invalidated the Bush adminitration's regulation. In effect, they ruled that whatever "full certification" may mean in a particular state, a teacher is  NOT highly qualified before they have obtained it. But the Obama administration figured out a way to sidestep the court and has continued using the logically indefensible Bush definition of "highly qualified" as rank beginner.

in other words, the Obama administration is so dismissive of teacher quality as an issue in school reform that they are unwilling even to insist that public school teachers meet state certification standards that are undemanding to begin with. So Americans, particularly poor Americans, will continue to make do with teachers who often are so far removed from "highly qualified" that it is a joke.

For more such considerations please visit Highly Qualified Teachers: misgivings

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