Magazine article District Administration

Defining Highly Qualified

Magazine article District Administration

Defining Highly Qualified

Article excerpt

Let's start with the good news: More than half of the states say that 90 percent or more of their core classes are taught by highly qualified teachers. Now the bad news: Every state has its own definition of highly qualified. Michael Petrilli, vice president for national programs and policy at the Thomas B. Fordham Foundation in Washington, has a lot to say about teacher accountability.

Q: What bothers you about NCLB's "highly qualified teachers" provisions?

A: NCLB is primarily focused on holding schools accountable for results but, in return, giving them more flexibility about how to achieve those results. With the highly qualified teachers provision, we've gone back to old-fashioned, top-down regulation focused on paper credentials instead of on student learning.

Q: You've been quoted as saying that the state rules for determining teacher quality do little to ensure the subject-matter knowledge of veteran teachers.

A: Congress gave states a lot of leeway in showing that teachers demonstrate subject matter competently. States designed systems that have not changed the playing field at all in terms of teacher quality, at least for experienced teachers. Virtually all teachers will be declared highly qualified. It's a huge missed opportunity.

Q: Can you think of any way to fix this system?

A: The number-one factor related to student achievement that schools can control is teacher quality. The best way to figure out who's effective is to look at the gains students make over time. …

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