'Highly qualified teachers' an unfortunate label
According to data collected from the Oregon Department of Education last spring, during the 2003-04 school year 202 of 269 classes in the Crook County School District were taught by a "highly qualified teacher," leaving a remainder of 67 classes unspoken for.
The ODE and No Child Left Behind Act have defined "highly qualified" teachers as those who are fully licensed by the state, holds at least a bachelor's degree, and demonstrates mastery in his or her core subject area.
Teachers who hold restricted or transitional teaching licenses are not considered "highly qualified."
Restricted teaching licenses are utilized by future teachers of Oregon, who are teaching in schools on a provisional basis.
Transitional teaching licenses are for teachers who have moved to Oregon and have not been fully licensed and certified in the state.
Before they can earn their Oregon teaching license, they must first apply for a transitional license.
If a Title IA school has a teacher who is not highly qualified, the school district must send a letter out to every student of that particular teacher addressing their qualifications.
"The teacher might have a master's in math and could have taught 10 years in their home state and still not be highly qualified by the state's definition..." explained Rich Shultz, Crook County School District personnel director.
He said that the majority of the 67 classes were taught by teachers that had either a restricted or transitional teaching license.
The mentality behind NCLB is to hold schools and teachers accountable for their weaknesses and we think that's a good idea.
However, this is an example of how NCLB is too rigid and is hurting our schools' reputations.
We believe a separate classification is needed for the teachers in transition and the ODE should consider excluding them from the "highly qualified" teacher data.
The student population of Portland Public Schools is about 53,000 students. What may work for those schools may not be the best solution for the 3,205 students in the Crook County School District.
After all, the goal of NCLB is to provide the best education for every student.
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