Calif. Court Invalidates ‘Individualized Intern’ Certification

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A California court last week ordered the state to void permits for nearly 2,000 California teachers who hold a special license designed to help them meet the “highly qualified” mandate of the federal No Child Left Behind Act.

A superior court judge in San Francisco told the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing to immediately stop issuing “individualized intern certificates” to teachers who do not qualify for full licensure. The judge also ordered the commission to correct reports to the federal government on the state’s numbers of highly qualified teachers and to issue temporary teaching permits to those who currently hold the individualized intern certificate.

Compromise Upended

The decision was part of a settlement agreed to by the commission on a lawsuit brought against the state by an education advocacy group earlier this year.

The suit came after state education officials worked out a compromise with the U.S. Department of Education to allow teachers who held the individualized intern credential to be deemed highly qualified.

Many of those teachers had previously taught with emergency teaching permits, and many researchers and advocates criticized the certificate because teachers holding it might not be close to fulfilling the requirements to receive a permanent license. ("States Given Extra Year on Teachers," Nov. 2, 2005.)

“This decision ensures that we will have a more accurate picture of the numbers of highly qualified teachers in California,” John Affeldt, the managing attorney at the San Francisco-based public-interest law firm Public Advocates Inc., said in a written statement.

“It also allows teachers and students to remain in their classrooms undisturbed while putting pressure on the state and districts to get everyone qualified.”

Mr. Affeldt’s firm argued the case on behalf of the advocacy group Californians for Justice. That statewide group charged that students in low-performing, high-poverty, or high-minority schools were more likely to be taught by a teacher who did not have a full credential.

The No Child Left Behind Act dictates that all students be taught by a highly qualified teacher in core academic classes, and states must certify that all veteran teachers meet that standard by the end of this academic year unless they receive a waiver from the U.S. Department of Education. California settled a case with the Education Department last year involving its use of the “highly qualified” label with teachers who were working with emergency permits.

Currently, fewer than 2,000 California teachers are using the individualized-intern certification, said Mary Armstrong, the general counsel for the state teaching commission.

About 4,000 of the permits have been issued since they were established in 2003, but the majority of those holders have either received permanent credentials or are no longer teaching, she said.

Few Immediate Effects

While the order will not immediately affect the teachers’ jobs, salaries, or benefits, their “highly qualified” classification will be affected. Those teachers will be able to continue teaching with temporary credentials while they work toward attaining a full credential.

Ms. Armstrong said the ruling will not significantly change the number of highly qualified teachers in the state. California has about 306,000 precollegiate teachers, but the state has seen severe shortages in recent years.

Under the ruling, the teaching commission must submit a revised count of highly qualified teachers in classes across the state to the legislature as well as to federal officials. In addition, the NCLB law requires all schools to notify parents if their children are in classrooms with noncertified teachers for more than four weeks.

Vol. 25, Issue 11, Page 12

Published in Print: November 9, 2005, as Calif. Court Invalidates ‘Individualized Intern’ Certification
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