Here’s my hypothetical question for the day: Should a math or science major with next to no teaching experience but subject-matter expertise count as a “highly qualified” teacher under No Child Left Behind?
Public Advocates, a San Francisco civil rights firm, doesn’t think so. The group helped Bay Area families file suit this week against the U.S. Department of Education, arguing that the agency was watering down the requirements by allowing these “interns” to be considered highly qualified.
They noted that urban districts such as Oakland have a much greater percentage of interns than more affluent areas. Last year, about 11 percent of Oakland’s teachers were interns, meaning they were completing their teacher’s training while on the job, rather than before.
Troy Flint, an Oakland school district spokesman, says people in the central office are passionate in their defense of the intern option, especially for hard-to-staff areas such as math and science. He argues that it allows people with math and science backgrounds to more easily switch careers.
“If we were never to use intern teachers, there would be almost no math or science teachers,” Flint said.
Then again, a study released today by the Center on Education Policy suggests this whole “highly qualified teacher” provision might not be what it’s cracked up to be. Here is a cut from their news release:
The report finds that while most of the nation’s school districts—about 83 percent—report that they are on track to be in full compliance with the No Child Left Behind Act’s “highly qualified” teacher requirements, more than half of states and two-thirds of school districts report that the requirements have had little impact on student achievement, with only 6 percent of states and 4 percent of districts indicating that the requirements have improved achievement to a great extent. In addition, 19 states (38 percent) and almost three-quarters (74 percent) of districts say NCLB’s requirements have had a minimal or nonexistent impact on the effectiveness of the teacher workforce.
The report is available at www.cep-dc.org.