Stories and Grievances: Special Education
Lack of Qualified Teachers Plagues Schools Throughout America
How much is this deliberate?
Teachers may not meet federal qualifications
By PARIS ACHEN, Mail Tribune, March 26, 2006
Hundreds of middle school teachers and high school special-education teachers whom the state approved as highly qualified in the last two years may not meet the standards for the federal designation.
Following a directive by the federal government, the Teacher Standards and Practices Commission of Oregon recently changed the formula for determining whether middle school teachers and high school special education teachers are highly qualified.
The No Child Left Behind Act mandates that all teachers must demonstrate they are highly qualified in all the subjects they teach by spring 2006 through completion of coursework, a state exam or a state evaluation, though the deadline may be extended a year.
The U.S. Department of Education initially told states they could fashion their own evaluations, called the High Objective Uniform State Standard of Evaluation.
The HOUSSE considers a combination of experience, college coursework and professional development to determine whether a teacher is highly qualified.
But in August, a federal monitoring team concluded Oregons evaluation for middle school teachers and high school special education teachers gave excessive weight to experience.
"The feds said experience cant count for more than 50 percent," said Pam LaFreniere, TSPC teacher licensing coordinator.
The TSPC changed the high school special education and middle school evaluations Jan. 27 to a 100-point system in which experience can count for up to 50 points.
The change was noted in January in the Oregon Administrative Rules on the secretary of states Web site and in a No Child Left Behind publication on the TSPC Web site.
However, the agency did not directly inform school districts of the change nor send out a news release.
Officials from Jackson County school districts said they didnt know the change had been approved.
"Weve heard nothing about the TSPC changing the HOUSSE standards," said Samantha Steele, education director for the Central Point School District.
Any seventh- or eighth-grade teacher with more than five years of experience and less than 17.25 college credit hours in the subject they teach could require a reevaluation to determine whether they are actually highly qualified under the new formula.
The change also could affect special education, alternative education and English Language Learners teachers who teach content higher than the eighth-grade level.
The TSPC has approved about 2,300 teachers as highly qualified since 2003 when the agency started conducting evaluations.
About one-sixth of those may need to be reevaluated, but the agency has no plans to inform teachers whose highly qualified designations are invalid.
"Its the responsibility of the school district to know whether their educators are highly qualified," said Vickie Chamberlain, TSPC executive director. "They could make a determination themselves based on the information they have" about coursework, experience and professional development.
The change could impact five or six middle school teachers in the Central Point district, Steele said.
"The designation has little bearing on teachers," she said.
Districts may not fire a teacher for not being highly qualified as long as they are licensed.
In the Phoenix-Talent School District, about a dozen middle school teachers may need to seek a reevaluation, said Cally McKenzie, personnel director.
Eagle Point School District officials said they couldnt immediately provide an estimate of how many teachers might have an invalid designation.
"All this time weve been under the assumption our teachers were highly qualified, so we havent been working to get them college credit so they can become highly qualified," said Bill Feusahrens, superintendent of Eagle Point School District.
Staffed with only three evaluators, the TSPC is backlogged with about 250 applications from teachers seeking to show they are highly qualified in their content areas.
The agency plans to debut an online "calculator" in June that would allow school districts to input information about teachers to determine whether they are highly qualified.
School districts must report the number of classes taught by highly qualified teachers by November.
"We are working frantically to get the online calculator done, so school districts can get the information they need," Chamberlain said.
Reach reporter Paris Achen at 776-4459 or e-mail email@example.com.
Another chance to meet standard?
Oregon may get another year to meet a federal standard requiring that teachers show they are highly qualified in all subjects they teach.
The deadline to meet the goal is spring 2006.
In October, U.S. Education Secretary Margaret Spellings indicated that states that had shown "a good faith effort" toward complying with the No Child Left Behind Act would not face sanctions for failing to show that all of its public school courses are taught by highly qualified teachers.
On Tuesday, the U.S. Department of Education issued guidelines and a timeline for reviewing state plans and revisions for making all teachers highly qualified by spring 2007.
The federal government will review states plans in March and April.
It is slated to notify states in May whether they should submit revised plans. The revisions are due July 7.
"States for several years have been saying, especially in rural and small school districts, there wasnt a chance of reaching 100 percent by 2006," said Pat Burk, chief policy officer for the Oregon Department of Education. "In Oregon, weve come close, and we feel good about that."
The number of Oregon teachers who are highly qualified in every subject they teach has increased from 82 percent to 90 percent between 2002 and 2005.
Teachers can show they are highly qualified in subjects they teach through coursework, a state test or a state evaluation.
School district officials say assigning a highly qualified teacher to every class is an unachievable goal in small, rural schools and special education courses.
Small, rural school districts, such as Butte Falls, often depend on one teacher to teach two or three core classes as well as electives.
"In order for students to receive the entirety of our curricula its often necessary to use one teacher for multiple subjects," said Steve Pine, superintendent of the Butte Falls School District. "We dont have the funding to hire more teachers."
Becoming highly qualified under federal standards is also difficult for special education teachers.
"A high school special education class might have one teacher providing all core classes," said Juli Di Chiro, superintendent of the Ashland School District. "A highly qualified teacher must be endorsed in every subject area, reading, social studies, math. We think thats completely unrealistic."
Posted on Sun, Mar. 26, 2006
Forum on `No Child' act brings out sharp division
EDUCATORS DISAGREE ON EFFECTIVENESS OF U.S. PROGRAM
By Renee Koury, Mercury News
The federal government's No Child Left Behind Act proved just as contentious during a forum in Palo Alto on Saturday as it is on the national scene.
Hoover Institution senior fellow Terry Moe found himself on the defensive during a presentation at the Avenidas senior center, where he praised President Bush's initiative for standardized testing of every child, saying it can identify and make public which schools are failing.
``No Child Left Behind is a slogan,' Moe said. ``But it's a good slogan. It's like D-day for accountability for the public schools.'
But Stanford University education Dean Deborah Stipek, who agreed schools benefit from testing, said the law needs ``a complete overhaul.' She said the law neglects to offer ways to fix or replace failing schools, or improve teacher performance.
``You can shut down a school that isn't doing well, but then where are these kids going to go?' she said. ``You can get rid of all the teachers, but it's not like you have a lot of great teachers lining up to take their place.' She said a more apt name for the federal act might be ``No Child Left Untested.'
And several in the audience of about 80 people, most senior citizens, blasted the law as an unfair indictment of teachers, many of whom they said must teach children dealing with a variety of problems from learning disabilities and limited English to poverty and broken homes.
Many below-average schools are located in poor neighborhoods.
``It seems to me this law is a way to demonize and penalize the very people who are trying so hard to do the work,' said Ellen Smith, a former substitute teacher who serves on an education committee for the League of Women Voters. ``It is very punitive to me. Instead, why can't we think about how we can help teachers go into a school and turn it around?'
The No Child Left Behind Act, passed in 2002, requires schools to give students standardized tests to show they have achieved benchmarks of proficiency in math and reading by 2014. Students in failing schools have a right to be reassigned or get tutoring paid for by the district, Moe said.
Saturday's forum highlighted the classic arguments for and against the No Child act.
Moe, who also is chairman of Stanford's political science department, said the law has its flaws, but takes an important first step by focusing attention on failing schools. He contended that teachers and districts in the past were able to operate in obscurity and allow academic failures to slide.
``It's important for districts to feel the pressure that kids will leave their schools if they don't succeed,' he said. ``Districts don't like to feel that pressure so they are resisting this law.'
But Stipek and several members of the audience complained that the law puts too much emphasis on testing, while doing little to reform education.
``The law requires having qualified teachers but requiring it doesn't mean they're out there,' Stipek said. ``Just telling kids they can go someplace else to school doesn't mean there is another place to go.'
Stipek said a charter high school that Stanford University operates in East Palo Alto is an example of how much intervention is needed at schools where many kids are disadvantaged. Each child was assigned a monitor, and because of that, she said, it was determined why one boy was falling asleep every day in school: It turned out he was working nights as a janitor to support his family.
Seniors said they were interested in hearing the forum on education, even though their own children had long since graduated. ``When you read that 40 percent of college students can't read anything of complexity, it's a concern,' said Ginger Johnson, a program director at the senior center. ``What do they say? A society that doesn't educate its citizenry doesn't last very long.'
Hundreds of teachers not qualified, city says
Many lack license, have flunked test
By Tracy Jan, Globe Staff, March 24, 2006
Nearly 9 percent of Boston public schools teachers are not qualified to teach under federal standards, primarily because they flunked the state teacher's test and do not have teaching licenses, Boston school officials said this week.
As of June 30, federal law requires school systems to prove that 100 percent of their teachers show competency in the subjects they teach to earn a new federal designation of 'highly qualified." Each state comes up with its own definition for the requirement. In Massachusetts, teachers must have a teaching license, which requires a bachelor's degree, and must pass state tests in the subjects they teach. School systems risk losing federal funding if they don't comply.
Boston school officials, who said they risk losing $45 million a year in federal funds, are dismissing more than 110 of the system's 380 unqualified teachers at the end of the school year, telling them their contracts will not be renewed because they are unlicensed. The officials said they would work with the remaining unqualified teachers to help them get the necessary credentials. In all, 8.5 percent of the school system's 4,100 teachers don't meet federal standards.
The federal requirement, a part of the 2001 No Child Left Behind law, has put Boston and other school systems across the nation in a bind. Because of a national teacher shortage, school systems have been struggling to find teachers and often have had to offer positions to unlicensed teachers in the hardest-to-fill subject areas.
'I don't think any educator would stand up and say they don't want the best teachers in the classroom they could find, and that's certainly our goal in Boston," Superintendent Thomas W. Payzant said. 'It's reasonable for parents to expect a teacher to have a license, but there are a lot of things that can't be measured by a test that conveys the wide range of things good teachers do to help children learn."
Officials are allowing many of the unqualified teachers to stay because they teach hard-to-fill subject areas, such as math, science, and special education. During the last six months, the school system has been sending unqualified teachers to evening and weekend sessions to prepare for the state test. School officials would not say how long they would give the teachers to earn their credentials.
The school system usually hires about 400 new teachers each year to replace those who retire or leave for other reasons. This year, because of the dismissals, that number will be more than 500.
School systems often give the teachers emergency or provisional certification with the understanding that within some period of time, the teachers have to get their licenses. The federal law for the first time established a uniform deadline. Teacher quality is one of the most important factors in improving student achievement, educators say.
Barraged with complaints from districts struggling with the requirement, the US Education Department has said it may give states a one-year extension if they are making progress. The Massachusetts Department of Education, however, continues to push its school systems to meet the June deadline.
Statewide, 93 percent of teachers are considered 'highly qualified," compared with 91.5 percent in Boston. Boston has been improving its rate of highly qualified teachers and is closer to meeting the federal deadline than some urban districts, including those in Springfield and Brockton. In Springfield, 78 percent of teachers are highly qualified; in Brockton, 87 percent of teachers are. About 80 of the state's 330 school systems have met the 100 percent requirement.
The majority of the unqualified educators in Boston teach science, math, special education, and art, according to the school system. Most of them are not certified in the areas they are teaching, according to school system officials. Some are midcareer teachers who did not take the required courses as undergraduates. Others have failed the teaching test multiple times but are viewed by principals as doing a good job, school officials said. School officials could not provide specifics on the unqualified teachers, including their years of experience, and how many were simply waiting for test results.
'If they were really good teachers, they should be able to pass the test," said Beverly Mitchell, cochairwoman of the Boston Citywide Parents Council. 'If you were going to the hospital and you have a nurse who wasn't certified, wouldn't you have a problem with that?"
Boston parents whose children are taught by unqualified teachers received letters this month alerting them of their teachers' status. There is great disparity in teacher qualifications among Boston's schools, according to a report the school system presented to the School Committee on Wednesday night. Only 30 of the city's 145 schools have 100 percent of their teachers designated as 'highly qualified." At the Thomas A. Edison Middle School in Brighton, for example, all 51 teachers made the mark. But at the New Boston Pilot Middle School in Dorchester, only a little more than half of its 52 teachers did.
Federal law says school systems need to ensure that qualified teachers are equally distributed among schools with high numbers of poor and minority children. In Boston, where 73 percent of students come from low-income families, schools with high percentages of unqualified teachers fall above and below the average poverty level in the school system.
Debra Socia, principal of the New Boston Pilot Middle School, said the term 'highly qualified" is misleading and unfair. Her school has a higher percentage of unqualified teachers than other schools because she has tried to increase teacher diversity by hiring some who are licensed in southern states or come from foreign countries, but have not earned the Massachusetts certification. Many took the test on March 4 and are awaiting the results, she said.
'They just don't have that piece of paper yet," Socia said. 'It doesn't mean they're not outstanding teachers. When I'm looking at that person, I care about more than that piece of paper. Can you relate to children? Do you have creative teaching techniques? Do you have relationships in our neighborhood?"
Phillip Veysey, director of educational policy and programs for the Massachusetts Federation of Teachers, said the law places unnecessary emphasis on certification requirements. Veteran teachers with 20 years of stellar evaluations could be deemed unqualified if they did not take the appropriate courses, he said.
Tracy Jan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Posted on: Sunday, March 19, 2006
DOE hoping for No Child break
By Beverly Creamer
Hawai'i defines a highly qualified teacher as one who holds at least a bachelors degree and in each core academic subject taught:
" holds a Hawai'i license for teaching;
" has completed a state-approved teacher education program; or
" has completed an undergraduate major, a graduate degree, coursework equivalent to an undergraduate major, or advanced certification or credential.
Hawai'i state education officials are expecting the U.S. Department of Education to grant Hawai'i an exception to the federal deadline under No Child Left Behind requiring all states to have 100 percent highly qualified teachers in classrooms by the end of the year.
"It would be very hard for them not to (grant an exception)," said Gerald Okamoto, assistant superintendent for the Hawai'i State Department of Education's Office of Human Resources.
"We're submitting evidence of the efforts we're undergoing to meet the 100 percent, but we know we'll fall short," he said. "But every state is faced with this, not just Hawai'i. And we're geographically isolated."
Okamoto expects at least 300 more teachers to be certified as highly qualified by the year-end deadline, bringing the total up to 89 percent. It now stands at 86 percent.
The state has made strides since 2002-03, when the number of highly qualified teachers was at 76 percent.
The No Child Left Behind Act calls for all core academic subjects, such as math, science and English, to be taught by highly qualified teachers. That means their state license must certify them for the specific subjects they teach, or they must have completed certain university coursework or state-approved training.
Adele Chong of the DOE budget office said a team from the U.S. DOE will make a monitoring visit next month to review Hawai'i efforts to increase its number of highly qualified teachers. That's when the state will be able to make its case for an exception to the deadline.
"They'll determine if we're making a good faith effort or if we should be penalized," Chong said.
At this point in time, there's no way to say what a sanction would be, when it would be imposed or what the terms would be, Chong said.
Additionally, the state is required to have highly qualified paraprofessionals. Currently, 80 percent are rated as highly qualified, up from 40 percent in 2003-04.
Okamoto said there are initiatives under way to increase the number of highly qualified teachers in classrooms, ranging from aggressive recruitment for teachers in remote and hard-to-fill areas to an initiative with the Hawai'i State Teachers Association that allows the State Teachers Standards Board to look at teacher portfolios, experience and education to check for equivalences tied to the highly qualified rating.
The standards board recently agreed to accept a new teacher's SAT scores for reading and math to cut down the number of tests he or she must take in applying for licensure.
"We've been looking at different types of alternatives to try to get people qualified," Okamoto said. "At the same time we're not willing to lower our standards."
The standards board is also pursuing reciprocity agreements with other states, and recently accepted teacher licensures from the mid-Atlantic region.
Not all states have the same standards Hawai'i does, said Okamoto. "Some states don't test people and they call them highly qualified," he said.
Additionally, many teachers hired on an emergency basis are in the process of obtaining teacher certification.
Reach Beverly Creamer at email@example.com.
State faces lack of qualified teachers
By GEORGE MOORE , The Herald Press
Its a grim reality, but educators must face this fact, says Southington school Superintendent Harvey Polansky: Its harder to get into the University of Connecticuts undergraduate teacher preparation program than it is law school.
Polansky has joined a panel convened by the Consortium for Policy and Research in Education to address the lack of qualified teachers that has become a concern to schools districts across the country.
He said state schools like UConn and Central Connecticut State University do not graduate enough qualified teachers simply due to a lack of funding.
"Theres a real worry that we just dont have the right number of candidates coming through," he said, "particularly in math, science, speech pathology, special education and home economics."
Polansky said state schools need more resources to graduate qualified candidates. In addition to funding, the schools need educational experts who can guide students. Polansky estimates that 40 percent of the local school districts current teachers will retire by 2010, which, he said, "will present a real challenge for supply and demand."
But that point is not held by all education researchers.
Richard Ingersoll, a professor of education and sociology at the University of Pennsylvania, believes that the lack of teachers is due to retention problems, not the "pipeline" of education graduates.
"(Teacher retirement) is only a small portion," Ingersoll said. "Thats been totally exaggerated it the conventional wisdom. What we have is a revolving door. The image that comes to mind is pouring water in a bucket with a hole in the bottom."
About half of all new teachers leave the profession within the first five years, he said. There are a number of contributing factors to turnover, he said, including student discipline problems, salaries and control over the workplace.
Polansky, who serves with other superintendents in the state on the CPRE panel, said administrators are also concerned about the impact the No Child Left Behind Act has on the teacher pipeline.
NCLB, he said, requires a special education teacher to be specialized in both special education and subject area, such as math or history. He said the requirement has little value in the actual field and reduces the number of qualified candidates available to schools.