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Fixing Teacher-Quality Rules


The end of this school year marks a deadline for states to meet the NCLB requirement that most teachers be "highly qualified." But even proponents of the mandate are saying that it has been a disappointment, with some conceding it hasn't resulted in better and more sensible standards to ensure teacher quality. In recent testimony before a congressional committee, meanwhile, science teacher and Teacher Leaders Network member Valdine McLean told lawmakers that teacher-quality initiatives have focused too much on entry requirements and not enough on providing resources and support to enable teachers to thrive in their careers.

What's your view? How could schools best ensure that their teachers are truly highly qualified? If you were a member of Congress, how would you change the NCLB "highly qualified" teacher provision?


Whatever we do we must ensure the bar is raised for identifying highly qualified teachers.
The students test scores throughout the nation is a prime results of teachers not being highly qualified.

The issue of teacher quality is a complex one, and one in which there is no good solution.
First we have to ensure better quality teacher preparation programs. I have nearly completed my M.Ed, and my classes were a joke. I worked harder as a college freshman than I did for any education class I've taken. Yet, I got "A"s and "A-" for all my classes, without so much as even reading the textbook half the time. Moreover, my classes were rarely all that helpful, especially not when already on the job.
Second, if the goal is to ensure a high degree of content knowledge, standardized tests are not necessarily the answer. For Latin the requirement is a mere 24 credit hours in the state of Virginia. There is simply no way taking only 8 classes at the most makes a qualified teacher. I would raise the requirements for credit hours in the content area and raise the GPA requirements for content area and teacher preparation programs as well. How can we teach our students to succeed in school if we aren't that good at it? No teacher should have less than a 3.5 GPA overall from undergraduate and graduate programs. Of course, to attract this caliber of student to the teaching profession would require more pay for teachers.
Third, using standardized testing for measures of quality is not that good an idea. As teachers, we are trained to use multiple assessments, not all of which are a standardized test. Yet, we are not being judged by these same ideas? Not to mention, what about classes where students don't take a standardized test? I teach Latin, and I think that I do a good job teaching it, but there's no test to show how much my students are learning. So, how would my effectiveness be judged?
Fourth, taking more content area classes is really expensive and often impossible for teachers who work every day. I would love to take more Latin classes, despite the fact I already have a Masters in Latin (and Ancient Greek). Yet, on my pitiful teachers pay I can neither afford it, nor could I schedule it. There isn't a university anywhere near by that even offers a convenient upper level class. Under those circumstances, and I'm sure that I can't be the only teacher with this problem, what is a teacher to do?

Oh, in another note, by any measure, I am highly qualified.

It is very frustrating for me because the reciprocity between states is not consistent. How can a person be "highly qualified" in one state, but not in another? It is more frustrating to be in a current school district that has no clue about the requirements for "House Rules" and will have hurt the careers of at least 15 teachers who have the documents and criteria, but the district does not seem to know what to do at this point. Our leaders need to understand from the data that this legislation has not produced better teachers and has likely hurt the teaching profession as more teachers are going to get frustrated and move on to other careers.

Another aspect of “highly qualified” that boggles the mind is the idea that a person can take any subject level test (Praxis) and become highly qualified in that subject. How does passing a test ensure that a teacher can get the points needed to any student? Over the last five years, I have seen many knowledgeable teachers, who understood their content, not be able to get the message to students and they are considered highly qualified. The failure rate for students in their classes can be as high as 25%, yet they retain their job because it was always the students who failed and not the teacher.

I do not have any quick fixes for this issue, but a national standard is not the method required to fix the problem. Unfortunately, teachers are not made in the classroom and no education seems to prepare anyone for the job of a teacher. Building supports and other programs are the best methods for helping teachers become better facilitators in the classroom. Schools should be very conscious of how they schedule new teachers and not “throw them into the fire.” Helping and nurturing them in the beginning is one of the best ways of ensuring any new teacher’s success and if any laws are passed, that to me is the direction and path the money should go.

I am highly qualified in several areas; therefore, this does not pertain directly to me. I do not understand why people believe that more paper documentation will indicate more competency. I know people with doctorates who can do nothing but paperwork. Big deal! I know excellent teachers with just a bachelor's degree. Neither of which are highly qualified at this time. HQ is just more HOOPS for us to jump through. OTHER EVALUATION INSTRUMENTS: However, classroom evaluations are a joke as well. One - three times a year someone walks in your class and if you present well and your kids act well then you are a good teacher. HOGWASH! What about the other 172 days a year? Then there is the area of test scores. If my kids do well (or guess well) then I am a good teacher. If they do not then I am a crummy teacher. B-O-L-O-G-N-A!!!!!!! And then there is the student-administrator-pleaser. If you expect little from students, do not ruffle feathers anywhere, and please the principle in our building then you are doing a GREAT job and have a long career here. (come on!!!)Let's face it, quality is day-in and day-out!! Quality is like integrity - it is hidden in the things you do when no one else is around. And it is very subjective. It is not easy to judge since everyone has an opinion. Bottom line: It is difficult to judge quality. But we WILL keep trying!!

A suggestion: Divide the term "Highly Qualified" into two categories: Content and Process, both defined by standards. Content standards follow, with some tweaking, the current "Highly Qualified" criteria. Process standards define, at a minimum, the attributes of effective pedogogy. The acqusition of both sets of standards would be observable and would need to be demonstrated by the end of a (three year) initial certification period in order for a teacher to be eligible for "professional" certification (and compensation) and tenure.
Obviously, the devil is in the details, but if crafted in a 'mindful' manner, the intent is certainly achievable.

I would change the language from "highly qualified" to "highly effective." How many teachers have been in a college class conducted by a Ph.D. only to "learn" that the person may know a lot, but can't teach worth a darn. It sort of blows a hole in the whole idea of being highly qualified.

I want to teach in a school with teachers that want to teach with me. I want to pick my colleagues. I want to work with other teachers who are "like minded." Scrap the paper shuffling personnel (HR) department, and send teaching candidates to my school where we want teachers who want to be there, who want to grow in their profession, and who want to be successful in serving students, parents, the community, and each other. Doctors practice medicine...teachers should practice education. Groups of teachers should get together and form their own charter schools...their own "practices," and then stake their professional reputations on the outcome of their work.

(1990-91) Teacher of the Year (Texas R-19)

Out of the 17 student teachers I supervised this year, only one did not have the skills to be an effective teacher for their level of experience. The school districts need to do a better job of mentoring new teachers for the three years before they are given tenure (and beyond) to ensure that these teachers continue to grow and reach their full potential. If the government wants highly qualified teachers, it should do away with the ridiculous hoop-jumping requirements and pay school districts to hire mentor teachers. Districts just won't do it without the money. Instead they rely on already overburdened teachers to help in their "off" time or during a couple of hours with a sub! Also, if after giving new teachers the support they deserve, they don't cut the mustard, they need to be let go. Unfortunately, this doesn't always happen. Finally, while we need tenure to protect teachers from being let go due to expense, the laws need to be changed, so that it is easier to get rid of a truly incompetent teacher. I believe that a teacher who has been given 2 poor evaluations by an administrator should be reviewed by a committee of three teachers. (One of their choosing, one of admin's choosing. and one at random) If the committee finds teacher to be ineffective then they should be able to be fired without court proceedings.

In answer to the question as to how schools could best ensure that their teachers are truly highly qualified, let me offer the following: We don't necessarily need to change the NCLB "highly qualified" teacher provision. Our organization is in the process of contracting with various states to supply subject-specific online graduate level courses with end-of-course content tests to highly-qualify teachers with unavoidable out-of-field assignments through the NCLB HOUSSE certification program. The courses will be "How to teach" specific subjects - such as, "How to teach high school physics," etc. We also supply the course material that includes standard alignments, pacing guide/curriculum map, detailed daily lesson plans, assessments, student activity book, and class notes for each course. Additonally, we supply subject-specific mentoring teacher access through email for each of our over 100 courses. These three elements: online courses, material and mentoring support, represent a sustained (patent-pending)professional development program over the length of the school year that will help districts and schools provide the instructional support and qualifying vehicle necessary to "Leave No Teacher Behind(TM)" which is the necessary step required to leave no child behind. Virtually all of the over 260,000 secondary teachers in the country (national average according to US Dept. of Ed. is an average 24% of all secondary teachers) with an out-of-field assignment each year could be highly-qualified through this practical, economical process. A fraction of the professional development funding each year (less than 5%) could accomplish this goal and allow every state to come in to compliance with the NCLB goal of having a highlt-qualified teacher in every classroom.

I agree with Stephen about reciprocity among states. I teach in Kentucky, but I live in Ohio. In the process leading to my certification, which is in Special Education, I took several hours above a Master's degree in order to earn the additional credential of an endorsement for TESOL from Kentucky. In both areas I am certifed for K-12, with about 90 hours above a Master's degree. However, Ohio considers someone fresh out of undergraduate school with no teaching experience, but with an Ohio certificate, to be more qualified to teach in their schools than someone with a certificate in a neighboring state. The NCLB law creates divisiveness among the states, rather than bring states closer together, as one would expect from federal legislation concerning education. With its "highly quallified" stipulation, NCLB even contradicts the IDEA law, which allows Special Education teachers to teach students without IEPs as well, if done in the setting of the mainstream classroom. NCLB may have been well-intended, but the side-effects appear to outweigh the benefits of the cure.

I am highly-qualified,yet I still didn't get the position I applied for. Let's face it,it isn't the teachers that are failing the students.We are forced to socially promote the students to the next grade.They are way below their grade level when we get them at the beginning of the year, yet we are required to teach them at grade level. They are still way below grade level at the end of the year --although they have improved -- and I have to send them to 3rd grade. At what point are the parents going to be held responsible? I tutor on my own time without pay, and its still my fault that the students can't read? If the parents can't read and understand my grade level homework, my students are doomed to fail. Lowering the standards only serves to make the students even lower. If Johnny can't read at 2nd grade,PLEASE keep him there until he can. Or at least teach him at the level he's at rather than pushing the next grade level onto him.It's no wonder they end up dropping out of school. A person can only take so much frustration before they break.

Maybe we could solve a lot of problems by changing the name. What we have guaranteed is a Minimumly Qualified Teacher in every classroom. Sad to say, this was not always the case, with teachers being given out-of-field assignments in some (too many) cases.

Now they have to at least meet HOUSSE--which means (depending on the state) that they are likely to have at least taken a few content-related workshops. So, my child's biology teacher had to attend summer school to parlay his Special Ed credentials into being considered Highly Qualified to teach the subject. See the response from Teaching-Point above to see what that summer school likely looked like. Oh, and the teacher also had to become qualified in the other content areas he teaches at the same time. To my mind, the district's money would have been better spent on training the existing content teachers and the special ed teachers how to include the students with disabilities in the regular ed classroom.

Sorry--lest anyone think me ignorant, that should be Minimally Qualified :)

Attacking the qualification of teachers because their students do not produce a certain result on a standardized test is not a good measure of a teacher. Good teachers are gifted individuals who have proper educational background in their subject (traditionally four or five years of college work plus specialized credential requirements), and child development classes, and psychological evaluation, and creativity, and time to learn on the job. You can be the most intellectual person and achieve academically and still not be a good teacher. You can be a terrific manager of a large company and not be a good teacher. You can be a scientific genius and not be a good teacher. Not everybody can become a teacher. Teaching takes skills
that requires sensitivity, and motivational
ability. Mentor teachers are those who have been successful for many years, and we should look to them for some answers to their success. Because teachers are dealing with other thinking human beings, they cannot be expected to control the response of those they teach. The mentors know that their most successful students are those who come from homes where education is valued and teachers are respected. Given adequate supplies, small class size, respect and mentoring those teachers now who have chosen this profession, can do the job. In the public schools the teachers have been through the educational process. With Charter Schools perhaps the bar has been lowered in some instances. Under the NCLB Act, teachers are being judged by test scores of their students, and that is not an accurate measure of who they are as teachers.

The NCLB Act must not intimidate teachers by threatened their jobs and the condemnation of their schools if their students do not perform according to the standards of AYP.

Personally, I feel that members of all three branches of government and employees of the agencies that enforce the "rules" made by controlling federal dollars to education should be required to be "Highly Qualified" and pass the appropriate NTS test to demonstrate that they are HQ. Maybe then there would be less political "hanky-panky" and more attention paid toward funding education for the children and teachers.

NCLB was a great idea! The term highly qualified needs to be revisited to not that teachers are highly effective in teaching. A persons qualifications in no way denotes their ability to teach. Niether does it indicate that learning has occured in this highly qualified teachers classroom. NCLB was not developed by teachers but if teachers are given an opportunity to work on the document some of these terminologies would be changed to reflect what goes on in the classroom. The importance is not just the qualifications but again "how well instruction occurs". The 2007 State Teachers of the Year have contacted their delegates and congress persons to address some major concerns with NCLB. One of these includes "highly qualified".

I taught Special Education for a full school year. I have a Masters Degreee and was working on a Masters in education with certification, then left teaching because I was unable to drive 200 miles a day, four days per week during the summer to take two classes at NWSU.

From my point of view, seasoned teachers have not been willing to achieve highly qualified status. They loggied to have "experience" qualify them rather than take the Praxis exam or take a college class in their field. I believe this relates to a "watering down" of the program. Students are required to be tested each year, and with new requirements in place, they will be held back if they do not make the scores that they need to make. I can not quite understand why many career teachers are not willing to either prove that they are highly qualified by taking a test, or complete the course work required to obtain the "highly qualified" rating. Does this seem unfair to anyone? Let me know.


Yes, I feel it is unfair. As a high school Special Education teacher that has taught for one year, I felt I have not been trained to teach. Not one of the classes I have taken taught me how to teach these special students. Teaching is a gift. Not everyone in the profession is a teacher and taking classes or tests will not prove they can teach.

I feel test taking, course work, or any form of education that is available right now is worthless when it comes to educating someone in the area of how to be a HQ teacher.

If a person does not know how to impart knowledge and at the same time motivate students toward learning, plus motivate parents in parenting skills, then they are not a HQ teacher. That only comes from experience. I feel teachers who have been in the profession for over 30 years have gone through all of the stages of learning that the new teachers, just coming out of college, need to know. The new teachers may have knowledge, but they do not have experience in motivational expertise that the more experienced teacher has.

How many Corporate Executives spend years going back to school to become "highly qualified"? How many doctors spend a summer going back to school to become "highly qualified"? Most are willing to give up a week of their time to catch up on new ideas and read articles. A teacher does that plus is then expected to take classes, tests, and stay on top of the educational field through out their career. By the time they have raised a family, raised a population of students, and tried to stay current in their field through reading and short classes, they are burned out. Why should they then be required to start over? Most of them could teach the courses they are asked to take. Personal life experience is much better than any type of book learning to become HQ in education. They have watched the education field go through many different changes and each change they have seen has, after a few years, changed so the things that were said are renighed and another idea comes forth.

What it boils down to is, there are people who are good teacher, great teacher, or there because they like the summers off. There are no tests, classes, or legislation that will ever change that. Every business has the same people. Those that are there to help the business grow, those that are there for the money, and those that are there to have a place to go.

Education has always been, fix this person. It does not matter what the home life, or the desires of the individual being taught. Society feels the teacher should be the fixer for all student problems. Society feels the teacher is the master mind behind what happens to the children of the nation. When society realizes familys need to stay together and support their children the education system will start to actually educate students and not be a babysitter.
Then teachers will be appreciated again.

I agree with one of the bloggers on the "highly qualified"(HQ)-"highly effective"(HE)dichotomy. In reality, these two terms should not be mutually exclusive. If "highly qualified" and "highly effective" were defined in terms of specific dimensions and standards that both junior and seasoned teachers are to demonstrate, the gap between HQ and HE would not be as evident as it is under the current NCLB's provision. The bottom line is that a highly qualified teacher should be highly effective in the classroom. A teacher whose knowledge, skills and dispostions are not good, will probably be a teacher with a very low classroom performance.

As a member of Congress, I'd ask representatives to use the traditional, common sense principle, students of a "highly qualified teacher" earn high test scores, regardless of students' backgrounds and teacher's credentials, degrees, classes taken, etc. I'd urge that the assignment go to teachers whose students score in the 90th percentile or above, irrespective student background, etc.

Teachers will always be average as a profession. It is a wisp of Lake Wobegon to suggest that all teachers can be "highly qualified". Since teaching is a performance art, it is the art of teaching that should be graded, not the formal credentials, which do, of course, have their place.

Unfortunately, this nation has no formal, national, process of grading teachers' on-the-job performance. That is sad. Private sector professionals are often evaluated and both raises and demotions can result from those evaluations. Formal personnel evaluations are most common in the large national and international firms. Take a look at the worst teacher you know in your school district. Chances are that he or she is getting the same pay as the best teacher with the same seniority and formal credentials.

Those narrow minded, uneducated people that devalue the teaching profession by painting all teachers with a broad brush of failure, should examine their own motives for doing so.

I consider the highly qualified teacher requirement to be a straw man. With regard to content area, most teachers I have worked with are adequately qualified in terms of content area, and most of the rest can at least keep ahead of the students.

The problem in terms of qualifications is with regard to classroom management and teaching strategies. The education classes I had to take for my license were interesting, but generally of little practical use.

Let's stop whipping teachers and school districts over the highly qualified teacher requirement. Principals know who is qualified and who is not. Empower the principals to weed out the unqualified teachers and empower the principals to hire qualified teachers.

With regard to reciprocity, I think it is a disgrace that we do not have something close to total reciprocity between states. If I am licensed to teach in any state in the US, I should be able to transfer my credentials to any other state without having to take college courses or state tests, and with only a minimum of paperwork. Last I checked Newton's Laws of Motion are the same in all states of the union.

It's all a joke and a ploy to demand more money for over paid teachers. It's simple hold them accountable by the results of their students performance.

If you use CRCT to measure what the student learned, use the same test to measure how well the teacher taught.

Force them to make lesson plans availble to parents throughout high school.

Most teacher are highly unorganized to the point where they can't give students adquated advanced notice to test dates so the can develop effective study habits.

If a teacher refuses to deliver or can't show signifcant improvements show him or her the front door immediately.

In my district they just transfer the teacher to another school.

People the word is accountability.

Why are teachers fighting about measuring the level of performance. If you go to a hair dresser and they do a poor job you choose not to return. The kids of this nation is a million times more important. It is very important that the teachers be highly effective in the work they give to the generation of tomorrow. If you do not want this type of critque you probably should find a skill that does not measure your work ability. And I don't think that skill exist. Even a McDonald's worker is graded on his performance. Teachers it a good idea to be measured. Do what is needed to be the best in your particular skill. It's great to see teachers going back to school. That says a lot about tjhat teacher. When you are at your best our kids reap the benfit. Our kids deserve it! Don't you agree?

I am so disappointed with the NCLB because I lost my beloved teaching position and have been unable to find a job--even outside of teaching because my resume shows years of teaching experience which (I guess) to some employers looks as if I am unskilled; Well with being out of work, bills have gone unpaid and behind 2 months in rent. I am not even sure how I will put gas in the car. I wish there was a way that this NCLB mandate could be changed because it has left behind some qualified teachers and I would really love to speak with our president and other various lawmakers who have caused me to be destitute and on the verge of homeless.

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