NYT Column Makes Mountain Of An HQT Molehill

The most striking and problematic things about this week's Samuel Freedman column (about a handful of highly educated teachers in California who are told they're not "highly qualified" and decide to quit) are that the column (a) focuses on dramatic and relatively unusual exceptions rather than the widespread problems that need addressing, (b) blames NCLB for drumming out star teachers more than teacher training programs for their poor quality, and (c) -- perhaps most important of all -- may represent a highly exaggerated or even inaccurate interpretation of HQT rules in NCLB and California.

UPDATE: Ryan Boots at edspresso writes "I think Freedman picked a rather extreme anecdote to illustrate his dissatisfaction with HQT. Pacific Collegiate is an outlier in nearly every respect: sky-high SAT scores, high college acceptance rate, and lots of faculty with master's (even doctoral) degrees? Sounds like pretty much no high school I've ever heard of."

Over at Eduwonk, Andy points out that "...this one is squarely on the states. NCLB only requires subject matter expertise and state certification..."


With a column that basically focuses on the plight of a dozen teachers at a single school (Unqualified to Teach), Freedman is not alone in falling prey for dramatic, exception-finding "poor teacher, poor school" stories about NCLB like this one. (For a previous post on this, see here.) There's no evidence I know of suggesting great teachers are leaving in droves "because" of NCLB in particular.

And Freedman does mention the related problem of teacher prep programs of low quality, which is a real issue. Who would want to spend hours and hours and thousands of dollars on more training if it's not relevant or helpful?

But I think that his reporting about what NCLB requires in re HQT is perhaps more than a little off.

Correct me if I'm wrong, but in California, as in most states, teachers don't have to be HQT they just have to be on a path towards becoming HQT. While they're not, parents get sent home letters explaining the situation. Thus far, at least, no one that I know of has been fired for not being HQT; in fact, the USDE has given everyone yet another year to get there.

And, through the HOUSSE provision, there are myriad ways for teachers to become HQT without necessarily going back to school.
LinkI'm told that by the folks at the Ed Trust that there are fast track and intern programs that take as little as six weeks for certification.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

the HOUSSE process would not help these folks, since it address subject matter competency, but does not replace the credential.

In California, there are indeed multiple alternative routes to a credential, the most popular being the intern route, which involves completing the full load of teacher prep coursework while you are teaching. (It basically just moves the pre-service program into an in-service program.)

There is a fast-track option that seems designed to help applicants bypass teacher prep coursework, but (inexplicably) it also requires that applicants at least enroll initially in an intern program.

In reading the requirements for the program, it is not clear to me how much (if any) coursework this option actually requires. Here is a link to the page on the CA Commission on Teacher Credentialing website that details the various requirements for the fast-track option: http://www.ctc.ca.gov/credentials/leaflets/cl840.html

At this point, the fast-track option is not widely used as far as I know.

I think this is due in part to the fact that one of its key assessments, the Teacher Performance Assessment (TPA), has yet to be fully implemented due to a lack of funding from the state.

But it may also be underused because there's really no one publicizing it -- applicants need to enroll in intern programs, but those programs would have little incentive to encourage candidates to bypass the coursework.

4:19 PM  
Blogger Michele at AFT said...

We featured a similar story of a teacher in New Mexico in this month's American Teacher. I can't say whether the problem is widespread, but it does happen.


4:36 PM  

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