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Posted at 12:29 PM ET, 12/20/2010

A 'highly qualified' gift from Congress to Teach for America -- UPDATED

By Valerie Strauss

[Update: This version includes new statement from Sen. Tom Harkin's office]

Should teachers still in training programs be considered “highly qualified” to teach kids?

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit recently ruled that they aren’t, but some members of Congress think so.

Senators have included in key legislation language that would allow teachers still in training to be considered “highly qualified” so they can meet a standard set in the federal No Child Left Behind law.

In an era when the education mantra is that all kids deserve great teachers, some members of Congress want it to be the law of the land that a neophyte teacher who has demonstrated “satisfactory progress” toward full state certification is “highly qualified.”

Teachers still in training programs are disproportionately concentrated in schools serving low-income students and students of color, the very children who need the very best the teaching profession has to offer. In California alone, nearly a quarter of such teachers work in schools with 98-100 percent of minority students, while some affluent districts have none. Half of California's teachers still in training teach special education.

Allowing non-certified teachers to be considered “highly qualified” would be a gift to programs such as Teach for America, which gives newly graduated college students from elite institutions five weeks of summer training before sending them into low-performing schools. Teach for America participants, who commit to staying in the program for two years, then continue education studies while they are teaching.

Under No Child Left Behind, all students are supposed to have a highly qualified teacher. School districts are supposed to let parents know which teachers are not highly qualified, and they are supposed to be equitably distributed in schools.

But the federal government issued a regulation in 2002 that included in the definition of “highly qualified” those teachers -- called interns in some states -- who are still participating in alternative route preparation programs.

A lawsuit -- opposed by Teach for America -- challenged the regulation, and a lower court ruled in favor of the Education Department, but last September, the appellate court reversed the ruling.

So language to make the regulation law was inserted into one bill, an omnibus Senate bill that was pulled by Sen. Harry Reid. But it's back, this time in a continuing resolution unveiled today, and hammered out behind closed doors by legislators who ignored pleas from student advocacy groups to drop the measure.

That’s some way to make education policy that will affect the country’s most needy students.

The office of Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), who is chairman of the Senate’s education committee, sent this statement late today:

“There is broad, bipartisan agreement among members of Congress and the Obama administration that it is the intent of Congress for alternative-route teachers to be considered highly qualified, consistent with the regulation that has been in place for several years. Chairman Harkin strongly believes that teacher quality is essential to student success, and intends to address this issue as part of a comprehensive ESEA reauthorization. While that process is underway, the 9th Circuit’s decision – which reverses a previous court ruling in favor of the regulation – could cause significant disruptions in schools across the country and have a negative impact on students. Maintaining current practice is a temporary solution, and underscores the need to act quickly and reauthorize ESEA early in the next Congress.”

What this will mean is that parents won't have to be told that their child's teacher is still being trained, and that teachers in training can still be inequitably placed in high-poverty schools.

There are surely some teachers still in training who are excellent teachers. But to declare that all of them are “highly qualified” doesn't make them so. It defies logic. Except in Congress and the Education Department.

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By Valerie Strauss  | December 20, 2010; 12:29 PM ET
Categories:  Congress, Teachers  | Tags:  CR, continuing resolution, education department, highly qualified teachers, renee v. duncan, teach for america, teachers, tom harkin  
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Comments

Could this lead to allowing medical interns to perform surgery and by law be found "highly qualitied?" Would Harry allow his family members to undergo surgery based on internship? Would he allow his family to attend school with an intern teacher?

What defies logic is Harry Reid.

Posted by: educ8er | December 20, 2010 1:23 PM | Report abuse

"Grassroots groups of low-income students and parents in California—including some of us—
challenged this regulation in court and recently won a decision from the Ninth Circuit Court of
Appeals striking down the Department’s unlawful regulation in Renee v. Duncan." (From the pleas link above)

So it is Arne Duncan who wants teachers in training to get the high qualified status? Why doesn't Obama fire him?

Posted by: educationlover54 | December 20, 2010 5:14 PM | Report abuse

Sen. Tom Harkin is corrupt. If Obama is backing this legislation, he is also corrupt.

Posted by: educationlover54 | December 20, 2010 6:02 PM | Report abuse

Funny how most "qualified" teachers shy away/run away from assignments in difficult schools in poor areas. That, more than anything else, explains why TFA is there.

Funny also how some commenters insist on comparing teachers to medical doctors.

Major difference: doctors take responsibility for their outcomes. Too many teachers (not all of them) do anything but, expertly reciting all the other factors in successful education that explain why their students may not be doing too well (while they as teachers are doing just fine).

Doctors can't do that, and that is one reason why medicine is a relatively highly respected profession.

Posted by: axolotl | December 20, 2010 7:20 PM | Report abuse

This all hinges on the enormous issue of what it means to be a great teacher and how to measure it. Going through a traditional route doesn't guarantee a great teacher, just like going through an alternative route guarantee a teacher is terrible. What is 'highly qualified' and how do we determine it? Tests? Evaluations? Test scores? Experience?


And even if this bill doesn't pass, I doubt those great teachers teaching in high-income schools will somehow make their ways to low-income schools, as much as we wish they would :)

Posted by: acasey3 | December 20, 2010 7:37 PM | Report abuse

A "highly qualified' teacher can mean many things; too much emphasis is being put on the academic preparation of young students coming out of ivy league schools.

A sound education from a good college just goes without saying.
However,

Where kids are concerned (from age 3-?)among other high qualifications, I would include:

1. Considerable experience with children,
period. Has the applicant coached
young sports teams, done extensive baby-
sitting, tutoring or some other worthy
child-related endeavor?

2. Has the applicant (for older adults
transitioning to a teaching career)
raised children, been involved in PTAs,
done other volunteer work with students
(see #1.)

3. Does the applicant have good interpersonal and mangerial skills for working with colleagues and organizing a classroom and students?

4. Does he applicant show a history of interest in the academic AND social issues
around the K-12 population? Does the applicant have some grounded historical/philosophical knowledge of what teaching involves (beyond their own experience attending school)?

5. Does the applicant have a sense of what it means to teach students of diverse cultures?

The questions I've raised above are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to
being prepared for current teaching situations in the US. Certainly, they cover more than a 5-week boot-camp......unless we are truly admitting that out backs are up against a wall and it is now necessary to treat our public education system as a war zone of sorts.


Posted by: PLMichaelsArtist-at-Large | December 20, 2010 8:03 PM | Report abuse

I now have to laugh when I hear talk of needing "highly qualified" people to teach.

My local school district periodically sends out announcements that they desperately need math/science teachers, especially in high school for college prep courses. I have applied to teach but cannot get a job as I do not meet the "highly qualified" standard necessary to teach in this state. I pointed out to the employment personnel that I have earned a PhD and have 10 years experience teaching in college. They insist that I still am not qualified to teach.

To be considered "highly qualified" I would have to (1) return to graduate school for 2 years to get an education degree and teaching certificate so that I "know how to teach", and (2) pass state exams so that I have "proof that you know the subject matter."

Strange system we have here.

Posted by: stoic009 | December 20, 2010 8:03 PM | Report abuse

sorry...typo.left out some words....last 3 lines should read:

"unless we are truly admitting that our backs are up against a wall and it is now necessary to treat our public education system as existing in a war zone of sorts where quickie boot camps are desirable.

Posted by: PLMichaelsArtist-at-Large | December 20, 2010 8:07 PM | Report abuse

So basically the districts can save money by having Teach for America volunteers - rather than actually paying for the highly qualified teachers who have spent years learning their craft - nice.

Posted by: myrlyn | December 20, 2010 11:22 PM | Report abuse

This discussion reminds me of something funny that happened to me about 25 years ago. Another teacher and I started a tutoring business with computers. One day a woman came in with her "gifted" seventh grade daughter who needed help in math. Both my partner and I heard the words "gifted" and "math" and decided the child was beyond our level of expertise. However, we accepted the child as a student because I figured my husband, who has a Ph.D. in math, could fill in for us.

I sat in on the first lesson. My husband had no clue as to the child's problems, leaving her totally confused. I thought to myself, "You can do seventh grade math." So I took the book home and prepared myself to teach the next lesson to the girl. The lesson went well and the girl seemed to understand. The lessons continued for about six months and then the mother announced, "My daughter earned an A in math, so we will discontinue the sessions." The little girl turned to me and said, "Thank you, Mrs._______ You're the best math teacher I've ever had!"

What this experience demonstrates is the complexity of teaching and learning. As others have said above, there are many traits that a teacher of children needs. Yes, subject matter mastery is important, but you'd better know how to relate to your students and how to explain your subject in a way that they can understand.

Posted by: Linda/RetiredTeacher | December 20, 2010 11:24 PM | Report abuse

Today I was thinking about the similarities between physicians and teachers. When I took my sons to the pediatrician when they were ill, the doctor often said something like "Now make certain he takes this medication twice a day until it is gone." If I had ignored the doctor's instructions, would he have been to blame? I don't think so. The doctor rightly assumed my cooperation and no one even thought of challenging it. He never had to say "I can't treat this child unless someone at home is carrying out my instructions" because this was accepted as truth.

In much the same way, the teacher depends on the parents to support her efforts. She might teach the child HOW to read, but she depends on the parents to encourage recreational reading at home. She might do a good job teaching her students to tell time, but she assumes the parents will reinforce this skill as it is needed in daily activities.

I was also thinking about the importance of the doctor and the teacher in a child's life. Who would influence the child more - the first grade teacher or the physician? I suppose it would depend on the circumstances. If the child were so ill that he depended on the doctor for life, I would say that the doctor was more important, but if the child just had the normal childhood illnesses, the teacher would probably have a lot more influence.

When we talk about the education of a child, we are discussing complex issues with few simple answers. Yes, a teacher CAN be compared to a physician and she comes out looking just as important, although not as appreciated. Is this one of the causes of our educational problems? Many people would say yes.

Posted by: Linda/RetiredTeacher | December 20, 2010 11:58 PM | Report abuse

So someone that only plans to stay in Education for 2 years and leaves is more qualified than someone who wants to serve students for the rest of their career and studies the subject matter fully?? I just don't get it. What happens when the economy is back on their feet and these graduates get their dream jobs straight out of college?? Do you really think they would join TFA?? If that's the case, all colleges should drop their Ed departments since being certified doesn't matter.

Posted by: Schoolgal | December 21, 2010 12:00 AM | Report abuse

Oh, but parents WILL be told-by other personnel in the school. If you think otherwise, think again. Letting some wet-behind-the-ears trainee work with children without disclosure is just dishonest.

Is it the intent of some in Congress to deceive parents?

If someone isn't certified, parents have the right to know.

Posted by: mollycoddle1 | December 21, 2010 6:30 AM | Report abuse

Linda: you are hung up on status and respect for teachers, or so it seems.

Fuhgeddabout it. Talk to a cross section of teachers in an East Coast urban setting. Skip the TFAers if you like. Imagine those with ed. degrees teaching your children.

Understandably, and not without its benefits, the teachers of today are more like a cross-section of the students they produce.

That said, it would be good if we could be more selective, provide more PD, and supervise them better. Their intentions are good--as long as ironclad job security and shunning responsibility for student outcomes are not part of their values.

But analogous to doctors? You gotta be kidding. May have been true when you were growing up, but not today, either in how they present themselves or how they are perceived. Sorry.

Posted by: axolotl | December 21, 2010 8:28 AM | Report abuse

Sorry axolotl (regarding your post) but not "all doctors" are concerned with their outcomes either. The real difference between doctors and teachers is the level of advanced training doctors receive leading to a medical degree. The problem with many teacher preparation programs is that they are not providing enough practical experience. Oh yes, there is an internship, but that typically comes at the end of the degree. Research is pretty clear in the need for more practical teaching experience long before internship begins. However, it is hard for the typical college undergrad to justify taking additional college credits for an avg. salary of $40K a year, especially when the returns for a masters or doctorate in education is marginal at best (when compared with other fields). Another issue is the politicization of education, it seems that new plans (laws) are hurriedly enacted before the prior ones can be adequately tested to see if they actually work. In other words, politicians can't get votes if the education system is working, they can get votes by bashing everything and proclaiming what they will do to fix a broken system. "Waiting for Superman" is not a valid predictor of educational outcomes in that it only has n=5, but every politician loves to use this docudrama as a portrait of everything that is wrong with education. The only true measure of what "highly qualified" means is to directly observe a teacher in the classroom working with children and an evaluatory system should be built to emphasize that direct observation.

Posted by: band4me | December 21, 2010 8:46 AM | Report abuse

By the standards of most government employees and union members, a random bum on the street would be considered highly qualified.

Posted by: thebump | December 21, 2010 9:00 AM | Report abuse

Has anyone looked at the results of TFAs teachers? I have known several, including my daughter's friend who worked for two years in a 2nd grade classroom in the poorest neighborhood of a south-eastern city. She may not have had the experience of a 20 year veteran, but she spent hours and hours on her lesson plans, sunk many $ of her own money to augment the supplies the school district could afford to give the students, spent hours after school helping several very needy students, and successfully moved her students, each year, toward preparation for 3rd grade. She wasn't there because it was an easy ride to a teacher's certificate, she was there to make a difference and help children from limited circumstances.

After their 5 weeks of training, TFA teachers arrive in the classrooms revved up and ready to go, and they end up in situations most experienced teachers move out of because they are so difficult and challenging, and the pay is limited.

Instead of ripping the TFA program, why not add to the support given the TFA teachers? Such as, making sure they are supported by school principals, and are not over-burdened by excessive teachers association requirements at the same time they are finishing their TFA requirements -- giving them time to do their jobs.

Posted by: m00dl3s | December 21, 2010 9:19 AM | Report abuse

I am a 20 year veteran teacher who used the traditional method (education college) to get my teaching degree. I also have worked over the past many years with several TFA colleagues. If I had to stick my child in a classroom, and only knew one thing about the teachers: that one was a veteran, traditionally trained teacher, and that the other was a new TFA teacher, then I would put my student with the TFAer.

TFA attracts elite students, while most teacher training programs attract the bottom end of the barrel. TFAers tend to be bright and very dedicated. They are willing to try new ideas and do what needs to be done to get students to learn. They haven't "gone status quo" like so many veteran teachers I know. Of course there are always exceptions, but this is generally how things go in my district.

It probably isn't right to call TFA teachers "highly qualified". But districts routinely call worthless veteran teachers "highly qualified" when they have proven themselves year after year to be nothing more than glorified babysitters.

We are so concerned with the degree of the teacher, but don't really look at their skill and dedication at all. For the most part, teaching is a gift. You either have it or don't. While teachers can be taught certain tricks and techniques to make them better, there are some people who will never get to where they need to be because they never had the gift. Unfortunately, our traditional teacher training systems routinely let these people without the teaching gift become teachers anyway, and districts do nothing to get rid of them once they are hired. At least the TFAers who don't have the gift tend to leave once their two-year committment is up.

Posted by: klumpenfam | December 21, 2010 9:30 AM | Report abuse

I'm sure the TFA's are fine - for 2 years. I've worked in a number of alternative schools where we had a very interesting mix of both experienced, certificated teachers, and non-career teachers doing a short stint. The mix made for a pretty exciting faculty.

The problem, is that who stays to give a school continuity and pick up the pieces when the short-termers are gone?

A: The veteran, experienced, teachers with advanced degrees who have chosen to make working with children their lives' work.

Posted by: PLMichaelsArtist-at-Large | December 21, 2010 9:49 AM | Report abuse

This is a complex issue. For a start the teacher unions have built a large moat around themselves and the Universities with teacher certification programs are in cahoot with them. The teach American program attracts kids from well off families from top US Universities who after their undergraduate education get trained and teach for a year or two at schools which serve under privileged kids. Wall Street Journal did an article this summer about the demographics of the trainees and the schools they went to and the learning outcomes at these under privileged schools. I do think if young people who otherwise may never have even gone to these inner city areas before are willing to teach to these kids, we should encourage this. I am kind of surprised that Democrats in congress are supporting this even though the unions are against this.

Posted by: upnorth85 | December 21, 2010 10:32 AM | Report abuse

In order to be considered highly qualified all I had to do was:

1) Pass the Praxis in my subject area
2) Hold a teaching certification in my state
3) Have a 4 year degree from an accredited university

I was TFA, but my TFA (or in-training) status was irrelevant in my state. This article seems to suggest TFA teachers are not certified - this is absolutely not true! I don't mind some reasonable critiques of TFA but this is just plain inaccurate. They are not the same as interns in terms of status because they are certified, and most meet the highly qualified definition as handed down by the state. However, I agree that this 'highly qualified' designation is entirely random and not currently based on anything meaningful.

Posted by: acasey3 | December 21, 2010 11:43 AM | Report abuse

I agree with you Ms. Strauss that designating teachers who are new and still in training as "highly qualified" is ridiculous.

I was TFA & like acasey3 mentioned I had to fulfill state requirements to be certified. One of the most frustrating things was how ineffective these state requirements were. They did not help me actually become a better teacher. They ate up many hours that I could have used to write better lesson plans, keep up with grading or reach out to parents.

For me, your article brings up the question of quality teacher preparation programs. If we recognize the importance of a "highly effective" teacher for every student, why are we not discussing how to design teacher preparation programs to meet that need? This bill just seems like re-branding something old and pretending a new name is a new solution. I think the more important question is, 'How can help create more "highly effective" teachers?'

Posted by: EnglishTeacher | December 21, 2010 12:36 PM | Report abuse

I have to say that you should have done a bit more research on Teach For America before writing this article. It has nothing to do with "elite institutions," applicants are welcome from all walks of life, and though many have just graduated from college, according to the TFA website, 19 percent of the current 2010 crop of TFA teachers had a graduate degree or held a full-time professional position before joining TFA.

Posted by: Peregrine_Falcon | December 21, 2010 12:55 PM | Report abuse

Axolotl,

I can remember my 6th grade teacher and what he has meant to me. I can recall the influence that my 9th grade Social Studies teacher had on me. I also chose a degree in science thanks to my Chemistry teacher. I have been greatly influenced by those who took the time to care for me. Funny thing is, I DO NOT remember my childhood doctor. I cannot recall his name, his office or his demeanor. Ask me any question about the previously mentioned teachers and I could fill a book from my memories.

My doctor took care of my basic needs and it is true, without him, I would not be the same physically. These teachers
enriched my life that far exceeded any basic needs. Without them, I would not be the same person and can only fathom what path I would have chosen, good or bad.

Now try to tell me who was more important in my life.

Posted by: maxnotmaya | December 21, 2010 1:06 PM | Report abuse

Funny also how some commenters insist on comparing teachers to medical doctors.

Major difference: doctors take responsibility for their outcomes. Too many teachers (not all of them) do anything but, expertly reciting all the other factors in successful education that explain why their students may not be doing too well (while they as teachers are doing just fine).

Doctors can't do that, and that is one reason why medicine is a relatively highly respected profession.

Posted by: axolotl

Really? When the doctors "take responsibility" for the 100,000 - 200,000 they kill every year by their malpractice, (not to mention the millions injured) I'll respect them. Until then, doctors would do well to aspire to be as successful as teachers.

Posted by: mcstowy | December 21, 2010 1:07 PM | Report abuse

TFA's are not "highly qualified" do do anything. They are overpaid interns. If the Congress passes a bill repealing the law of gravity, will we all be able to fly?

Posted by: mcstowy | December 21, 2010 1:10 PM | Report abuse

Once my own doctor said this to me:

What you do is so much more important than what I do. After all, I don't even remember my childhood doctor, but I remember every one of my teachers and how much I loved them."

I responded, "Of course you are important. After all, you save lives and keep people healthy. But I will admit that I save the QUALITY of people's lives."

So of course we need doctors and teachers. When a new community is formed those are the among the first professionals (along with the clergy) that are considered essential.

The big difference is that almost all citizens appreciate the work that doctors do and so we are able to maintain very high standards for them. Because teachers aren't nearly as respected or rewarded, our country has great difficulty in attracting "the best and the brightest" to the field. Even now, when so many children are desperate for good teachers, we are talking about placing minimally prepared people in the classrooms of our poorest children. For shame!

Posted by: Linda/RetiredTeacher | December 21, 2010 1:28 PM | Report abuse

NCLB’s Highly Qualified Teacher Requirements
All public school teachers with primary responsibility for direct instruction in one or more of NCLB’s core content areas are required to demonstrate that they satisfy the definition of a "Highly Qualified Teacher." This requirement includes:
• Elementary level (grades K-6) teachers who teach all subjects to a particular grade;
• Middle- and secondary-level (grades 7-12) core content area instructors;
• Special education teachers who provide direct instruction in one or more core content areas; English as a second language (ESL) teachers who provide direct instruction in one or more core content areas; and
• Alternative education teachers who provide direct instruction in one or more core content areas.
To satisfy the definition of a Highly Qualified Teacher, teachers must:
1. Hold at least a bachelor’s degree;
2. Hold a valid teaching certificate (i.e., Instructional I, Instructional II or Intern certificate but not an emergency permit); and
3. Demonstrate subject matter competency for the core content area they teach.
The NCLB core content areas include English, Reading/Language Arts, Mathematics, Sciences, Foreign Languages, Music and Art, and Social Studies (history, economics, geography, and civics and government).
NCLB’s "Highly Qualified Teacher" classification does not apply to all teaching certificates any way. What then is really the reasoning behind it? Every teacher certification should have this classification associated with it if a teacher is doing his or her job proficiently. That way the public knows if teachers are doing their job. The way ESEA is written this classification is being used as an inaccurate indicator of a teacher’s ability. Rather it is an indicator that a person holds a certificate in an area of teaching known as being a part of the “core content areas” and has passed various tests, it really has no indication on the education a child receives. The perception of the public and many school administrators is inaccurate with the intent of the classification. Also the other certified teaching areas not identified as “core content areas” are thought as not important by school administrators and sometime eliminated from a school offering such as technology/engineering. I would recommend that everyone read the report done by the National Academy of Engineering and National Research Council called “Technically Speaking: why all Americans need to know more about Technology” (can be accessed online at www.nap.edu and typing Technically Speaking into the search area). This could be a reason that our students are not performing well on all the indicators that everyone is using to say our educational system is broken. We need to teach the whole child not just what someone says is the “core content areas” and only testing two areas (Reading and Mathematics) to see if students are learning is not a true indicator of our educational system.

Posted by: TandEofSTEM1 | December 21, 2010 1:46 PM | Report abuse

For the most part, these comments are missing the point.

The number one issue in U.S. education today is the fact that everyone and anyone believes they know what is wrong with education and they offer yet another solution that will be talked about and debated to death.

The system is old, broken down, and rusty - NCLB put education in the spotlight and the veterans are not happy about it.

The old education regime embraces bureaucracy and disorder because they can get away with things - the "high-quality teachers" that you speak of are the ones evolving now who are open-minded, progressive in philosophy, and genuinely care about the future of education.

The bottom line is the system MUST be streamlined (which is why I believe Cathy Black was the PERFECT choice for NYC schools - she's not there to deal with "education", persae, she is there to cut out all the mess and dust off the process using her keen business sense).

Additionally, anyone currently teaching or considering the profession must realize the implications of their purpose. Are you smart enough? Passionate enough? Driven? Dedicated? Are you a professional?

It is very true that the United States must enforce higher standards for our teachers (note: stats from the Time Mag article that stated 43% of US teachers today graduated at the bottom third of their college class!) - no more undergraduates coming straight from a teacher-prep program that ultimately serves as a cash cow for its University.

There is no room for the superficial "I like my summers off" rationales or "teaching looks fun, i'll try it out"...No. That is not acceptable. People don't walk into a Goldman Sachs and just think, "hey, I'd like to make six-figures some day, I'll try it out..." - they don't say it because GS sets the bar high and only hires the best of the best.

Teacher resumes do not have to read Harvard or Yale, but teachers MUST be the Total Package, or we are just failing our kids.

The "highly-qualified teachers" are those who exemplify "The Total Teacher Package"!

PS: here's hoping science discovers a gene linked to this idea of "the total package teacher" : )

Posted by: LAB918 | December 21, 2010 2:07 PM | Report abuse

mcstowy writes: "Funny also how some commenters insist on comparing teachers to medical doctors."

No they are both professionals.

"Major difference: doctors take responsibility for their outcomes."

No, they don't. They take responsibility for their inputs. This is what it should be for teachers as well.

As a teacher I should be responsible for doing what is necessary for my job. Students and parents should do their part too.


Posted by: worldhistoryteacher | December 21, 2010 2:16 PM | Report abuse

Define "highly qualified"
Maybe I need to read this article again. Maybe the author is in fact an educator. Maybe even a “highly qualified” educator. Maybe I need to pay closer attention to NCLB details instead of thinking of it as “No Child Left Untested” as we used to call it in my Pepperdine Master’s cohort.


But, then again, maybe not. My opinion is that yes, quality teacher preparation programs are important, BUT quality school leadership, quality ongoing professional development programs for teachers and quality measurement of life-long learning, is more important than a single quantitative measure such as NCLB. These take time and resources in a profession, and I use that word strongly, that has felt the effects of the economy bomb.

As I begin reading this article my reaction is negative that test scores and NCLB drive it. Driven by lawmakers looking for isolated, quantitative evidence that can earn votes (money) for them.

http://mbcep.blogspot.com/2010/12/define-highly-qualified.html

Posted by: educationalconsultant | December 21, 2010 2:17 PM | Report abuse

Correction & Addition to my last post -

To be clear, there are a TON of amazing teachers that exist today, I was simply speaking to the future and not the past. We have made a mess for ourselves in education, and for good or for bad, teachers are taking most of the blame. There are poor performers in any industry, but they are simply discarded and forced to find a more suitable profession.

These are my observations as a 26 year old career changer with experience in the business world who made a choice to actualize a long-time dream of teaching. If I didn't think I had what it takes to be "one of the great ones", I would have stayed in my prior role and moved on, but I know I have more to offer the world as a role model, coach, and educator.

That being said, as a graduate student in pursuit of my MSEd in Special / Childhood Education, I admit that the range of quality amongst my peers runs the gambit, but the quality of theory and practice taught in Graduate schools today is going to make a huge impact of the system. If schools would simply raise their standards (and also be trained in the recruiting process), education would turn around and teaching would be considered a prestigious and highly competitive industry - this way, students always win.

Personally, it seems that alll of these issues seem unnecessary and fixable, if only the system would cooperate and be open to change.

Posted by: LAB918 | December 21, 2010 2:21 PM | Report abuse

worldhistoryteacher writes "As a teacher I should be responsible for doing what is necessary for my JOB".

Thank you for highlighting the issue - some teachers consider it a JOB, others consider it an intrinsic part of life.

If you are that insistent in sharing the responsibilities of teaching and handing over the baton to parents and students when the bell rings, why did you go into the profession to begin with?

Posted by: LAB918 | December 21, 2010 2:26 PM | Report abuse

LAB918,

Though I agree with the message, the reality is that you will not attract the upper tier graduates when the pay scale of a teacher is nothing compared to that of the Goldman Sachs of the world. GS can afford to keep the bar high while schools cannot. therefore, the only way to attract some teachers is by talking about the summers off and this leads to many of the 'I guess will try teaching'-types becoming teachers.

Posted by: maxnotmaya | December 21, 2010 2:26 PM | Report abuse

Maxnotmaya,

I completely understand that problem - though, if you are passionate enough to be drawn to the profession, then the pay doesn't matter, as much.

The point I was making is that if education as an industry becomes more unattainable, it will become more desirable. It's human nature - and when that happens - the money will fall into place... eventually. Do you agree?

Posted by: LAB918 | December 21, 2010 2:29 PM | Report abuse

Honestly, I see the money stay at the top more often than not. In Arizona, they have way too many districts for their population. One district consists of two schools, an Elementary and Middle School. That district, like all the rest, has a District Administrator. This administrator makes more than double what any of the teachers make. If they were to merge this district with one or two more, they could still pay the same salary for one administrator and provide some the necessary money to the classrooms and/or teachers. I think that this is one of the major problems of education. The wrong people tend to get the money and they tell the teachers to work 'for the love of the job'.

Posted by: maxnotmaya | December 21, 2010 2:36 PM | Report abuse

LAB918

To answer your questions, yes I think that making it unobtainable will increase desire. I just hope that if this were to happen, that the money would fall into the right hands. (see previous post)

Posted by: maxnotmaya | December 21, 2010 2:39 PM | Report abuse

This ruling is once again going to be used to share with future teachers out there that we do not value their craft as professionals of highly qualified degrees. Although not life threatening you could look at this situation as the equivalent of sending in a resident to perform surgery on a patient and not informing the patient that their surgeon is in training to allow them the opportunity to go elsewhere to get that surgery done by someone with more experience in the field. I know I'd go somewhere else. We should at least pair a mentor (experienced) teacher with a teacher in training to insure each child gets the best educational experience we can provide to them.
Erika Burton, Ph.D.
Stepping Stones Together, Founder
Empowering parental involvement in early literacy skills
http://www.steppingstonestogether.com

Posted by: SteppingStonesTogether | December 21, 2010 2:41 PM | Report abuse

Correction to last post
....more unattainable not unobtainable

Posted by: maxnotmaya | December 21, 2010 2:43 PM | Report abuse

Based on the comments it seems like there is no reason why TFAers and others entering non-traditionally shouldn't be able to get qualified before entering in the classroom. Thus, this bill should be thrown out.

Posted by: worldhistoryteacher | December 21, 2010 2:47 PM | Report abuse

I am sorry for not commenting with the wider readership in mind.

In the District of Columbia, the union and many (not all) of its members shun and will not acknowledge specific responsibilities to actually educate. That is readily apparent on these comment boards. I am so used to that dereliction and am buoyed by the thought that teachers elsewhere actually take responsibility for education during classroom time.

PS teachers I sometimes meet and hear about locally seem mighty interested in job security--to an extent 98 of 100 American workers do not enjoy.

Curious though: the vast majority of teachers where I live do not care to vote on their union's proposed contract or even on their own union leadership. Go figure.

It is a sad commentary when doctors appear more responsible than PS teachers, but that's actually true for individual doctors, even with the decline in health care effectiveness nationwide.

Equations between physicians and teachers seem silly today. There is no comparison when it comes to responsibility. For doctors, it is inescapable.

Posted by: axolotl | December 21, 2010 2:53 PM | Report abuse

AX:

You are right; I am "hung up" on prestige and respect for teachers. That's because I know that in nations that have an enviable system, the teachers are highly regarded by almost everyone. This enables those countries to recruit teachers from some of the most talented college students. Countries that do not highly respect or value their teachers almost always have a difficult time attracting people. The least qualified then end up with our poorest children. That's exactly what is happening in our country. Of course some TFAs are excellent but no country that values its educators would even consider lowering their standards. We never do it in the highly valued professions such as law, medicine, nursing, dentistry, college teaching.

Let's focus on one example: You are a person who does not respect teachers. Therefore you are probably very unlikely to become a teacher yourself. You are also unlikely to encourage your children to become teachers. That pretty much sums up the problem we have now.

Do you want to improve education for DC children and others? Start with a teacher you DO value and write about that person's strengths. Share your ideas on how we can recruit and retain more people like him or her.

Remember that a parent who devalues educators almost always has low-achieving children at home.

Posted by: Linda/RetiredTeacher | December 21, 2010 3:10 PM | Report abuse

worldhistoryteacher writes "As a teacher I should be responsible for doing what is necessary for my JOB".

LAB918 writes: "Thank you for highlighting the issue - some teachers consider it a JOB, others consider it an intrinsic part of life."

No one I have ever met spends as much time and money on their job as I once did (since marriage and children this is no longer the case). I spent enough money, in the early part of my career that I could itemize (over 2% of income) and I have been to nearly every type of history conference / seminar . . . but intrinsic does not enter the situation even though I considered it a quasi-monastic calling that need not be the case. It sure isn't for TFAers who generally leave the profession after two years(and this is okay).

Why do I call it a job? Because it is one.

"If you are that insistent in sharing the responsibilities of teaching and handing over the baton to parents and students when the bell rings, why did you go into the profession to begin with?"

I don't get the question.
I believed this when I went into teaching, I believe it as a parent, and nearly all the best students and their parents believe this too.

So, yes I can be considered a great teacher in the classroom and am by some.

But that is only 6 hours a day (and that is okay), the rest of the time the student is by themselves, with friends, with parents, or some other adult. I take full responsibility for the inputs - teaching interesting, informative, meaningful lessons and assigning meaningful or relevant homework, but I take no responsibility for students completing it.
And a teacher needs to take responsibility for creating fair and relevant assessments, but they can't be responsible for the child studying or practicing for the assessment when they are not around. That is not their job, it is someone else's.

All the major players in education for it to be successful need to do their job. Teachers, parents, and students.

See Bill Belichick and "do your job":
http://advice.cio.com/michael_goldberg/management_lessons_from_bill_belichick
(This is a great take on teaching too, in my opinion)

I do mine. Tom Brady does his; whether he considers his job an intrinsic part of life is immaterial.

Posted by: worldhistoryteacher | December 21, 2010 3:24 PM | Report abuse

"Highly qualified" is at best a fraudulent term. There is little difference between "highly qualified" and "barely qualified" under the current system. The fact of the matter is that there is NO NATIONAL WILL to have highly qualified teachers in evey classroom. Just minimally qualified (holders of some sort of a state-issued teaching certificate or license). As it stands, the term "highly qualified" is an insult to anybody of minimal intelligence.

Posted by: GeorgePeternel | December 21, 2010 5:50 PM | Report abuse

worldhistoryteacher,

Apologies if my comment came off as insulting (or an attempt to be). That was not my intention.

As I mentioned earlier, I know there are amazing teachers out there and I am sure you were / are one of them, even to your children today.

I was trying to convey my thoughts on people who consider teaching a job, 7AM - 2PM (or whichever hours you work) and then go home and forget about it... Teaching, like medicine, like law, is a unique profession in that anyone who is dedicated will bring it home with them in ways that keep them reflecting on how they can improve.

So, again, my intention was not to criticize or insult : )

Posted by: LAB918 | December 21, 2010 6:10 PM | Report abuse

Oh Linda TRT: Of course teachers deserve our respect, but it's not conferred forever because of a job title. That's a very simple matter for the qualified ones who perform.

Many of us want all the ones in place to be effective or better. Some people in some places find that too demanding; I trust you don't.

Parents and other citizens and stakeholders don't want the uncommitted, poorly-skilled, pension-oriented kind teaching our kids.

And we want the especially good ones teaching in our toughest schools; many teachers resist this, but it is the best way to help the students who need it the most.

Locally, many resist any kind of evaluation and taking responsibility for education. You, Linda, say you readily assumed that responsibility for the kids' time in the classroom, but that's not all that widespread in these parts.

A teacher does not hold respect very long if he/she does not perform adequately or attributes student outcomes to anything, but never his/her own performance.

Anyone selected and hired deserves respect, but if they don't meet expectations, after appropriate time and remediation, they need to find another line of work.

Governmental entities and commercial unionized places (only 7 percent of all workers) protect workers' jobs, but not the interests of the taxpayers, and in this case, their children.

Teachers here would have the respect they receive in Finland--but only if they were that good. Not enough of our educators are that good--most people would agree with that.

To some, a teaching job 'til pension is an entitlement, but not to most of us.

Posted by: axolotl | December 21, 2010 6:19 PM | Report abuse

If there has ever been evidence that formal teacher training leads to better teachers, I haven't seen it. I've seen plenty of really weak teachers who were fully credentialed, and just as many outstanding charter school teachers who did not possess teaching credentials but who had real mastery of their subject and great skills in the classroom.

What Strauss fails to explain is that every state sets its own standard for what constitutes a "highly qualified" teacher. In many states, a Teach for America intern would be highly qualified by virtue of having a college degree in the subject he or she is teaching. The new change to the law simply makes that possible in the other states -- bringing more commonality to a rather chaotic process.

Posted by: bk0512 | December 21, 2010 6:40 PM | Report abuse

Great article for exciting up the masses. Almost like talk radio - say something provocative that makes no sense and then wait for a reaction. The government has enacted arguably a well intentioned regulation. The end result sadly is not as intended and causes more problems. So the solution is to make a law work by turning it on its head. Frankly you can't be highly qualified in any profession if still in training. Unless of course the government says so but not if the courts disagree. Got that. What were we focusing on again? I almost forgot.

Posted by: georgepappas | December 21, 2010 8:15 PM | Report abuse

Ax:

Everything you say is true but you just don't know the reasons for it; nor do you understand how things have been for many, many years. Until the recent recession:

Most urban schools were not able to hire enough teachers so they hired and retained just about everyone;

Even among the group that did elect to teach, 50% quit during the first five years, making districts even more desperate;

Administrators throughout the nation gave almost every teacher tenure, even though, by law, they did not have to grant it;

Almost all administrators gave almost all teachers high marks on their evaluations, even though they were free to give any type of evaluation;

Administrators, not teachers or unions, hire, evaluate and fire teachers;

By law, a union does not evaluate a teacher. It only provides teachers with legal representation once a teacher gets a poor evaluation. If the district followed due process according to law, there isn't much the union can do. As much as I hate to give Michelle Rhee credit for anything, she proved this.

The situation you describe is due to economic causes (not enough people want to be teachers) and social causes (the occupation doesn't appeal to enough people for a variety of reasons).

Central Falls High School (RI) gives us a very good example of the problem. The administration had the ability to fire all the teachers but tremendous social and political pressures resulted in every one of the teachers being hired back. Now several have quit and others are out sick, maybe due to extreme stress or maybe retaliation. We don't know. What we do know is the school's a mess, administrators can't fill vacant positions and morale among teachers is very low. The impoverished children, as always, are the biggest losers. Fixing this school will take the proverbial village.

Basically we are looking at a very complex social problem where there are many players: parents, other citizens, teachers, politicians, etc. We found out from D.C. and Central Falls, that there are no simple solutions.

You want better teachers. Well, so do I. We know how to do this: Offer more money, better benefits, more autonomy etc. Treat the present teachers with respect and gratitude so they'll encourage their own children and students to become teachers.In order to be able to dismiss the ineffective teachers, you have to have enough people willing to do the job. For me, the job was a wonderful one, but many people don't see it that way. Bashing the teachers we have will only make a bad situation worse.

In regard to D.C.: If Mr. Gray encourages educational leaders to build morale among teachers, the district might be able to attract and retain fully credentialed teachers with track records of success in urban schools. They won't have to rely on inexperienced people right out of college. You can be certain Scarsdale and Beverly Hills don't.

Put in the simplest terms: You catch more flies with honey than vinegar. Help us do it

Posted by: Linda/RetiredTeacher | December 21, 2010 10:01 PM | Report abuse

This proposition to allow TFA teachers and or interns be considered "highly qualified" made me physically ill. I have been teaching for 25 years, have a Multiple-subject credential/Bilingual Emphasis, a Single-subject credential in Biology, a Bilingual Certificate of Competency (now called BCLAD), National Board Certification in Early Adolescence: Science, Preliminary Administrative services credential--I AM HIGHLY QUALIFIED, by any standards. I fully resent any comparisons to TFA and/or interns.

Posted by: scarra3 | December 21, 2010 10:44 PM | Report abuse

"You want better teachers. Well, so do I. We know how to do this: Offer more money, better benefits, more autonomy etc"

That seems exactly right, and of the three I think it's the autonomy that's most important. If we want people to act like professionals we have to treat them like professionals. Suffocating them with bureaucracy and micro-management is counter-productive. I always knew I wanted to teach, but when I looked at the way public school teachers are treated, both by the public and by the school system, I knew it wasn't for me. I teach at the college level instead. I make only slightly more than the local public school teachers, and my benefits aren't even as good, but I get time to do independent research, I set my own schedule, I participate in governing the university, and I don't have any managers breathing down my neck. I'm trusted to do my job in a professional way. I wouldn't give that up for twice the salary.

Posted by: crazycatlady | December 21, 2010 11:44 PM | Report abuse

"So basically the districts can save money by having Teach for America volunteers - rather than actually paying for the highly qualified teachers who have spent years learning their craft - nice."

Not true- TFA teachers are paid the going salary for an entry level teacher in the district- they are NOT unpaid volunteers. My cousin spent two years teaching in an impoverished district that was DESPERATE for teachers. They would have taken these highly qualified teachers with years of experience that you speak of- but no one wants to go there. Most of the existing teachers were defeatists and just accepted the status quo that the kids would always be underperforming. TFA's philosophy is different- their goal is to close the achievment gap. I met a lot of my cousin's friends and they all were extremely bright, hard-working individuals- even in their rime off the conversation would always gravitate back to teaching!

Posted by: tiggs03 | December 22, 2010 9:37 AM | Report abuse

It would be nice to have a columnist present all of the fact surrounding an issue in education at some point. The term Highly Qualified is so ambigous and many of the teachers that are deemed HQ by this law are far from being qualified to teach our students. In the same way many of the teachers that we are required to report to parents that are considered not HQ are some of our best teachers. Whenever considering an issue in education, it is important to tackle both side of the issues for the public at large. The bottom line is I see both side of this argument having credibility. the questions is how do we address the newcomers and the old timers that are not HQ for our inner city kids...

Posted by: c2dee | December 22, 2010 11:17 AM | Report abuse

It would be nice to have a columnist present all of the fact surrounding an issue in education at some point. The term Highly Qualified is so ambigious and many of the teachers that are deemed HQ by this law are far from being qualified to teach our students. In the same way many of the teachers that we are required to report to parents that are considered not HQ are some of our best teachers. Whenever considering an issue in education, it is important to tackle both side of the issues for the public at large. The bottom line is I see both side of this argument having credibility. the questions is how do we address the newcomers and the old timers that are not HQ for our inner city kids...And also, how do we identify teachers that are HQ in both groups..

Posted by: c2dee | December 22, 2010 11:19 AM | Report abuse

It would be nice to have a columnist present all of the fact surrounding an issue in education at some point. The term Highly Qualified is so ambigous and many of the teachers that are deemed HQ by this law are far from being qualified to teach our students. In the same way many of the teachers that we are required to report to parents that are considered not HQ are some of our best teachers. Whenever considering an issue in education, it is important to tackle both side of the issues for the public at large. The bottom line is I see both side of this argument having credibility. the questions is how do we address the newcomers and the old timers that are not HQ for our inner city kids...And how do we identify the teachers that are HQ in both groups is our primary concerns.

Posted by: c2dee | December 22, 2010 11:21 AM | Report abuse

Linda/Retired Teacher says:

===Begin Quote===
Everything you say is true but you just don't know the reasons for it; nor do you understand how things have been for many, many years. Until the recent recession:

Most urban schools were not able to hire enough teachers so they hired and retained just about everyone;

Even among the group that did elect to teach, 50% quit during the first five years, making districts even more desperate;

Administrators throughout the nation gave almost every teacher tenure, even though, by law, they did not have to grant it;

Almost all administrators gave almost all teachers high marks on their evaluations, even though they were free to give any type of evaluation;

===End Quote===


And when someone (aka Fenty/Rhee) tried to change that, the voters threw them out...

Posted by: AJJJ | December 22, 2010 12:34 PM | Report abuse

Linda/Retired teacher... keep up the good fight. You explain the plight teachers find themselves with great eloquence and tact. We should pay doctors based upon the success rate they have in making their paitents healthy. If they can not lower the blood pressure and cholestoral of their paitents, they should be fired. If a Dentist continues to have paitents with cavaties, they should be fired as well.

Posted by: smith6 | December 22, 2010 12:41 PM | Report abuse

Really got a kick out of the teacher-doctor gobbledygook. It is one of the factors that contributes more confusion to the educational debate. It is a fact that teachers are not doctors, nor are schools supposed to be hospitals, but there seems to be this great expectation that teachers and schools can fix all the ills of a society going to seed. Actually, alleged low test scores measure more than whether a teacher is effective or a 25 day wonder is highly qualified. Test scores are just part of the growing evidence that quite a few things are not going well in the United States.

And perhaps the most glaring evidence can be found in posts like this one. The lack of civility from some people on this post is palpable and it appears that venom has no bounds. It is actually humorous to watch an educational veteran like Linda/RetiredTeacher deal with obnoxious posters with the same patience only a highly experienced teacher possesses. Sadly, too many people see that as a weakness which is one reason why teachers continue to get run over by people who don’t even know what they are talking about.

Posted by: jdman2 | December 22, 2010 4:18 PM | Report abuse

Really got a kick out of the teacher-doctor gobbledygook. It is one of the factors that contributes more confusion to the educational debate. It is a fact that teachers are not doctors, nor are schools supposed to be hospitals, but there seems to be this great expectation that teachers and schools can fix all the ills of a society going to seed. Actually, alleged low test scores measure more than whether a teacher is effective or a 25 day wonder is highly qualified. Test scores are just part of the growing evidence that quite a few things are not going well in the United States.

And perhaps the most glaring evidence can be found in posts like this one. The lack of civility from some people on this post is palpable and it appears that venom has no bounds. It is actually humorous to watch an educational veteran like Linda/RetiredTeacher deal with obnoxious posters with the same patience only a highly experienced teacher possesses. Sadly, too many people see that as a weakness which is one reason why teachers continue to get run over by people who don’t even know what they are talking about.

Posted by: jdman2 | December 22, 2010 4:21 PM | Report abuse

AJJJ:

The voters threw Fenty/Rhee out because they sensed, quite rightly, that senior, more expensive teachers were being unfairly targeted to make way for less expensive teachers hired through The New Teacher Project (founded by Rhee) that charged fees for each teacher it placed in the district. Anytime the firing of a large group of people is accompanied by false allegations, insults and implications ("they had sex with children") and possible fraud, you can be certain something is not right.

There are laws for dismissing teachers (firefighters, police officers, city librarians etc.) and those laws must be obeyed.

Posted by: Linda/RetiredTeacher | December 22, 2010 4:23 PM | Report abuse

Linda RTT -- I sincerely thank you for listening and agreeing, to the extent that you do.

I want good teachers in place as much as the next person.

But if the need is to coddle teachers, shield them from evaluations, give endless remediation to some who probably should not have been hired, "raise morale," and pay even more--without obtaining their recognition that they are responsible for some educational achievement during classroom time, and share some degree of accountability for progress--the price is too high.

Parents and other citizens in urban public schools have had enough of this zero-sum game between teachers and their students. Good teachers are uncomfortable with it. The people we elect in city councils and mayor's offices understand this.

The schools are run primarily for the students. As a traditionalist, you understand this, and that is (by your own account, which I trust) one key reason that you were successful.

Posted by: axolotl | December 22, 2010 7:46 PM | Report abuse

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