To the Editor:
In response to your article “Analysts Worry NCLB Won’t Solve Teacher Issues” (Nov. 24, 2004): One of my first projects as a middle school principal was to find a certified science teacher to replace a 6th grade teacher who was retiring. Experience had shown me that many elementary teachers take every opportunity to justify skipping science (not enough time; shortened schedule) because they don’t like it and are uncomfortable teaching it. Math suffers a similar fate.
Rather than force an unwilling and unqualified teacher to tackle science, I used this opportunity to find an enthusiastic science teacher, one who would teach science to our school’s entire 6th grade. I subsequently applied that plan to math and social studies, while allowing all the teachers to instruct their students in language arts.
This action resulted in increased teacher satisfaction, more engaged students, and rising standardized-test scores. When I first read the No Child Left Behind Act’s outline describing the options for teachers to become “highly qualified,” I was skeptical. The “high, objective, uniform state standard of evaluation,” or HOUSSE plan, sounded ineffective—an easy way out. I suspected that some middle school teachers who were certified to teach grades K-8 would transfer to elementary schools rather than take the steps necessary to become highly qualified in their content areas. My suspicions proved correct.
Not only should we work to help middle and high school teachers become highly qualified, but we also must apply similar criteria to elementary teachers. Regardless of grade level, a teacher should be able to fully explain why a reaction happens and why inverting and multiplying works when dividing fractions. Our elementary students deserve full and cogent answers.
A version of this article appeared in the January 05, 2005 edition of Education Week as K-8 Teachers Need to Be ‘Highly Qualified,’ Too