To the Editor:
In response to your article concerning the “highly qualified teacher” provisions in the recent draft House reauthorization plan for the No Child Left Behind Act (“Draft Retains Quality Rules for Teachers,” Sept. 12, 2007):
Throughout the federal law, “highly” is always used before “qualified.” This clever device suggests that teachers with state certification may not really be qualified, and that some higher authorization—such as passing a national test—is necessary to assure they are “highly” qualified.
So, many certified, experienced teachers are being classified as “not highly qualified.” They may be secondary teachers who are certified but don’t have a major in every subject they are teaching, or perhaps middle school teachers with general elementary certification. In such cases, school districts are required to send notices to parents that their children’s teachers are not highly qualified. Many teachers have lost their jobs and been replaced by inexperienced, uncertified teachers who have passed a test in a subject.
Rural schools, including those serving remote Native American and Alaskan populations, are especially hurt by this definition of “highly qualified.” Some cannot afford to hire full-time specialists in every subject, and there is no pool of part-time teachers available to them.
In addition, requiring middle school teachers to have majors in specific fields is an illegal imposition of curriculum under the federal law, since schools would have to move away from integrated social studies and general science courses.
There is an increasing shortage of qualified teachers nationwide, especially in minority and poor communities. The No Child Left Behind law’s “highly qualified” provision is aggravating that problem, not alleviating it.
Kenneth S. Goodman
Department of Language, Reading, and Culture
College of Education
University of Arizona