What Shall We Test?

03 November 2008

In Washington, we've had a statewide assessment for Writing (grades 4, 7, 10) for as long as we have had state tests. I have been ambivalent about this test for several years now. As much as I believe in graduating students who have good writing skills, I don't know that this belongs as a performance area to compare schools and growth. There is also the question of the hundreds of thousands of dollars spent developing and scoring the tests each year. Finally, the feds only require that we test reading, math, and science (with the first two currently figured into AYP). Why lump more expectations upon schools than is necessitated by the legislation? I'm guessing that I'm not the only one thinking about this. I see that Maine is looking to cut its statewide tests for writing.

I was thinking again this week after reading a WaPo article about the decline in time spent on science in elementary classrooms due to focus on other tested subject areas:

Science advocates recommend 45 minutes to an hour of science instruction daily starting in upper elementary grades. But many elementary and middle schools now offer half as much science as they did before the law was enacted. Middle schools that used to teach a full year of science and social studies now may offer a half-year of each. Elementary schools have squeezed the two subjects into one block of time to make room for more reading and math.

While this observation might not really qualify as "news," what is new is the realization that NCLB requirements in science may well lead to a positive impact. "Science advocates predict that school systems...under pressure from the new tests, will begin to restore lost hours of instruction."

I'm not sure where the time will come from. Personally, I am a great advocate for integrating more non-fiction reading (science topics) and using experiences in science as a springboard for writing in elementary classrooms. Many elementary teachers agree with that philosophy...but lots of administrators do not. "Reading" and "Math" mean using the district programs (e.g. Open Court, Investigations...). To "implement with fidelity" (a la Response to Intervention) means no mingling can occur. There is going to have to be some sort of detente between the teacher and admin camps before we can seriously look at restructuring the precious bits of time we have available for student learning.

It is a shame, to say the least, that subject areas are left scrapping for time based on their importance to testing. I've heard many a social studies and world languages teacher musing on what it would be like to have a tested area---how they might have more serious consideration if that happened. It's sad to think that the answer to the question "What shall we test?" is leading to such narrow curriculum options for children.

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Changes to Title I and NCLB

06 May 2008

I've been paying more attention to Title I as of late. In my morning district, there are triple the number of schools which now qualify (as opposed to just 3 years ago) with more teetering on the edge. My afternoon district is already all Title I. This is a poor area...which is getting poorer. The Department of Education recently "announced proposed regulations [for Title I] to strengthen and clarify No Child Left Behind. The proposed regulations focus on improved accountability and transparency, uniform and disaggregated graduation rates, and improved parental notification for supplemental educational services and public school choice." There will be a forum in Seattle later this month (more info here, if interested) to provide feedback on the proposal. I'm kind of interested in going---I'm curious how the presentation and discussion will range.

The DoE has some fact sheets, press releases, other documentation on its website, but here are a few highlights:
  • Clarification that accountability measures can include one or more assessments constructed from multiple kinds of items. In other words, schools do not have to measure progress based on a single test. While I think that this is very much a step in the right direction, it is also a bit of a can of worms in terms of what a school might define as an assessment, as well as the weight it gives to different measures. Hey, we'll burn that bridge when we come to it...so to speak.
  • Build on criteria that are part of the current "growth model" pilot program. " There is general consensus among teachers, administrators, researchers, and advocates that states should be permitted to include measures of individual student growth (i.e., growth models) when determining AYP. By allowing states to include measures of individual student progress in AYP calculations, schools will continue to be held accountable for the achievement of all students. At the same time, states will have the flexibility to use more sophisticated methods of determining AYP." I also like this idea. Isn't the point to help each child improve their level of knowledge each year---even if the kid is unable to meet the standard? The predominant issue I see now is that the tier which is right below standard---the "strategic" group---has a huge range. In one of my schools, we see huge leaps in learning, but may still fall within the strategic category. For example, let's say that a student has an overall score of 15 on DIBELS in the fall...and 48 in the winter (when the grade level benchmark is 50). The child has tripled their score and there may be many other indicators of change---but the school gets no credit for this because the child is short of benchmark. Compare that to a kid who starts at 48 in the fall and is at 51 in the winter. That child would be considered a success for the school. Growth modeling could really help with this issue.
  • States will be able to participate in a differentiated accountability program. "Differentiated accountability means creating a more nuanced system of distinguishing between schools in need of dramatic intervention, and those that are closer to meeting goals...In return, states must commit to: build their capacity for school reform; take the most significant actions for the lowest-performing schools, including addressing the issue of teacher effectiveness; and use data to determine the method of differentiation and categories of intervention." Like the growth model, this allows for some flexibility in terms of which schools are in need of the greatest support...and which are "almost there." Just as there is an enormous range of students in the strategic category, we can see the same in the AYP group for schools. If the "failure" of one subgroup in one subject area is enough to qualify you as a failing school...and so is the failure of four subgroups in two subject areas, states need to be able to focus resources where they're needed most.
  • There are also several changes and clarification to the notion of school choice. Parents have the right to move their children to better performing schools once the neighbourhood school has been labeled as "failing." Personally, I don't think that transparency about this is the real issue (as the DoE believes). Parents---especially low-income ones---are not going to move their children to a "better" school because they can. They like the security of knowing what happens at the neighbourhood school as it's part of the world they move in. How will you pick up your sick child from school when you now have to take 3 different city buses to get there---let alone participate in evening/after school activities? Parents are more concerned that their child is happy and learning, rather than looking at the overall quality of the school.
I'll let you know if I get to sit in on the discussions about all of this in Seattle. Perhaps it's because I haven't been paying much attention to these sorts of things before, but NCLB has always seemed so far away. It would be nice to be part of the process, if only to listen in on what will be happening to us.

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The Impatience of Achievement

01 April 2008

How much forward progress can we expect a school to make within a month? A year? Can we measure student achievement in terms of weeks...or do we need a broader time span to adequately assess any gains that are made? I wondered about this while reading Glimmers of Progress at a Failing School in a recent Sunday edition of the New York Times. It's about an elementary school in Newark which is now in its seventh year of being a "failing" school. There seems to be an abundance of anecdotal evidence that change is happening---but what will test scores show?

As I watch the day-to-day efforts of teachers and paraeducators to help support student learning, I think about how those tiny baby steps each session will eventually add up. The problem is, will anyone outside notice? A child receiving intensive interventions may double their score on progress monitoring tests, but still be within the range of intensive services. For kids who aren't yet able to meet the standards, it would appear that this type of progress is still worthy of recognition and celebration. It means the schools are on the right track. Change takes time. Schools didn't become failures overnight---and we can't expect that they will be exemplary at the snap of the fingers, either.

I worry about the staff who work so hard every day to help kids move forward. As a coach, I fret about their stamina---and how to nurture that---in the face of a world which doesn't recognize the little moves forward and just the big steps back. How do we make the fruits of their labours more tangible and easily recognized? What can we do to hold the impatience of achievement at bay?

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Nothing Endures But Change

19 March 2007

While there's no reason why Heraclitus would have had NCLB in mind when he wrote the quote I've used for today's header, I'm sure that ancient Greece was no less full of sturm und drang than the world we live in. Education and politics have been bedmates for a long time. We in the public schools might wish that they would go to couple's counseling once in awhile; however, it looks unlikely.

Personally, I don't mind a bit of change. What I do mind is that "we" don't seem to leave any initiative in place long enough to really examine what the effects are. There's always the bigger better thing on the horizon. By "we," I mean both educators and politicians. There is plenty of guilt to go around for both, but today, I'm going to point the finger (you can guess which one) at the political side of things.

The National Science Teachers' Association (NSTA) sent out this update this afternoon:

More than 50 Republican members have signed on to a bill, the Academic Partnerships Lead Us to Success Act of 2007 (A-PLUS Act), that would allow states and districts more flexibility in implementing state-based initiatives using federal education funding. If passed, this legislation would fundamentally alter the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act.

The A-PLUS Act would allow states to "opt out" of NCLB if it held a referendum or if two out of three state entities---the governor, the state legislateion, and the state's highest-elected education official---decided the state could no longer meet the law's accountability mandates. States that elect to opt-out would still get federal funding and could combine funds from certain education programs into one funding system. They would be freed from the requirements of each federal education program and could use the funds to advance their initiatives.

You can read more in a Washington Post article, a detailed description on the NSTA website, or a section-by-section summary provided by NSTA. This is certainly not a change which would be limited to science---so go poke around for yourself and see how things sit. I like the idea of more flexibility, but I worry that the ability to opt-out may mean that those groups of students which have traditionally been "left behind" will be allowed to fall through the cracks again.

Within our own state, there are bills in both House and Senate which would alter our current testing in math and science to end of course assessments for algebra, geometry, and biology---all of which would be multiple choice items taken in a web-based format. I find this possible change disturbing. It is such a slap in the face to all of the work teachers and students have done to become better thinkers in math and science. Science is so much more than a set of terms in biology. It is irresponsible to send students away from high school without the tools they need to adapt in an ever-changing world...one which includes probability, chemistry, measurement, and process skills.

Right now, there isn't a lot I can do except prepare to roll with the changes. Whether I like them or agree with them or not is really not part of anyone's considerations. I just need to endure.

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You're Kidding, Right?

16 December 2006

"U.S. public schools should be run by private contractors who would graduate most students by 10th grade, concluded an expert commission sponsored by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

The plan also calls for state funding to replace local property taxes, free pre-kindergarten and higher teacher pay on a merit-based system. The Gates Foundation and other sponsoring groups may pay states to help implement it, organizers said...

The panel, called the Commission on the Skills of the American Workforce, estimates that its plan would cost little more than $500 billion the U.S. currently spends each year on kindergarten through 12th grade education. The federal government provides about 9 percent of the current total, with the rest split between state revenue and local property taxes...

The added costs of about $60 billion a year would be offset by graduating about 60 percent of students after the 10th grade, when tests would show they are are ready for jobs or college. The commission predicted its improvements eventually would leave about 95 percent of all high school graduates ready for college."

There's much more to read in the article, but I pulled out the more frightening aspects. Graduating kids in 10th grade? After working with 15- and 16-year olds the last 15 years, I'm not convinced this is in the best interests of kids. Will there be jobs waiting for them? Can the kids get to them? Not all of them drive, let alone own their own cars. Might this become another area where low income families again get left out of options?

How does getting kids out of high school at 10th grade mean more of them will be ready for college? I'm also mystified how private contractors would do better than the current public system. It's not as if all of the issues---NCLB, uninvolved parents, poor families---are magically going to go away just because a company is running the school.

I'm hoping that this be one study that gets swept under the rug.

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No Child Left Behind Bars

09 December 2006

I knew that the oft reviled acronyms of NCLB and AYP were already causing a greater degree of angst with alternative programs, but until I read this, I hadn't thought about prison schools.

Juvenile offenders go to school while incarcerated. Once they turn 18, they are moved to an adult prison and schooling ends. Meanwhile, the schools often show as making 0% growth toward AYP and "face the public embarrassment of being put on a state failure list, with sanctions that can ultimately be as severe as staff replacement. That leads to demoralized teachers and difficulty recruiting."

I'm trying to imagine what the state plans to do when it steps in to take over the school. (Isn't it pretty much running juvy, anyway?) Will it be able to recruit teachers who get all of the kids to standard...just in time to turn 18 and get a pimp named Buddha in their next cell? I do think that education is a key to breaking cycles of poverty. Assuming that these kids make it back out into the real world, they're going to have to have some tools to make it...tools they didn't get before they were sent to the clink. I just wonder if these types of exceptional situations need some exceptions from unfunded mandates.

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In Case You Missed It

04 June 2006

Last week, federal legislation was introduced last week which would amend the No Child Left Behind Act (a/k/a "Elementary and Secondary Education Act") to include science as a measure of Adequate Yearly Progress, along with reading and math. Science testing at 3 grade levels was already required, however reporting the results was not. The amendment would require testing in science in grades 3 - 8 and at grade 10. These would be phased in by 2010.

When I think about what this will really mean, I don't know what kind of excitement to have: the kind like "Oh, boy! Finally science is getting attention!" or "Oh, crap! We're getting too much attention!" Love it or hate it, at least NCLB is going to make schools start paying attention to science. It won't be left behind (!) in favor of reading and math. I think that's a good thing. The idea that we're going to have to address equity issues in science is also good. (We have major issues with the achievement gap in science in my district.) The whole 2010 thing is a bit frightening. That's such a short time to be ready. My job has suddenly become a whole lot more important to the district.

Will "testing" mean another WASL for other grades...or some sort of classroom based assessment? What about the fact that our standards are not assigned to grades...but are in grade bands---how can we test each year? I'm sure the state must be peeing in its britches at the moment, considering the development and money involved.

Meanwhile, my k-5 science group meets again tomorrow to try to make some final recommendations about scope and sequence and kit selection. This new wrinkle will have to be taken into consideration...and we're going to have to sell it to the Boss Lady. She has alluded that we won't be allowed to purchase anything other than FOSS kits, but that curriculum doesn't work with our standards and is rather poor in comparison to other programs. I know that teachers may be uncomfortable making a bit of a change---but isn't our goal to help kids?

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Earth Moving, Courtesy NCLB

22 October 2005

You might love, hate, or tolerate NLCB. In my case, it doesn't really matter. I just need to know how to deal with the various impacts it has on the district.

NCLB requires a "highly qualified teacher" in every classroom, although the definition of what that means can vary a bit from state to state.

I'm minding other business on Tuesday when I get a call from our Human Resources department. School X is offering an "Environmental Earth Science" course, but the teacher only has a Biology endorsement. In order to teach anything with the word "earth" in it, a teacher would need an Earth Science endorsement on their certificate. (Interestingly enough, an Earth Science endorsement is enough to make you "highly qualified" to teach an Environmental Science class.) Did HR need to put this teacher on a plan of some sort since there was a question about the "highly qualified" status?

So, I'm sent off on quite the hunt to find out the answer. It turns out that each of the three high schools is offering a slightly different take on things. Theoretically, School X has a full-year "Environmental Science" class ("Earth" shouldn't be in the course title...hmm...). School Y has a one semester "Ecology" class and School Z has a one semester "Environmental Earth Science" course. It looked like the course title from one school ended up at another. Why all these classes are different and what is taught in them is something I'll eventually have to figure out.

In the meantime, principals, HR, science staff, and registrars at all three schools are awaiting an answer to a question that really wouldn't matter...except NCLB asked us to pay attention. To the word "Earth."

I think things are straightened out now. Each school knows what it's correct course title and number should be. Hopefully the computer system will keep things straight. HR is happy.

I didn't have the heart to tell the HR people the next day that the registrar of School X e-mailed me the next day to say that she hadn't seen the word "Earth" anywhere.

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Numbers Game

11 September 2005

I have been told that one of my areas of focus as district Science Goddess will be data analysis. Science testing is required by NCLB, but it is not factored into AYP...yet. (NCLB is up for renewal/revision next year and most people are betting that science will make the move into AYP territory.)

I have been provided with some basic testing data during the last two years, but now I actually have access to the databases and software in order to dig a little deeper. A preliminary glance at things reveals some rather frightening and thought-provoking results.

Just using the school I teach at as an example...

  • Only 3% of the 10th grade boys who were part of the Free and Reduced Lunch program met the standard in science (compared to 35% who weren't part of that program). And, perhaps I should just say 10th grade "boy," because 3% represents a single student. Girls fared better, but "FRL" girls met the standard at half the amount of the others (24.5% vs. 49.3%). Free and Reduced Lunch is one indicator of income...so, in other words, students from "poor" families did worse than those of middle class (or above).
  • Not a single African-American male met the standard in science (compared with 33.3% of Asian, 40% of Hispanics, and 30% of Whites). Oddly enough, African-American students of both sexes had the highest Reading scores of any subgroup...but were lowest in math, writing, and science.
  • In general, 43% of our girls met the science standard...but only 31% of our boys did. Boys did outperform girls on one strand of the standard, however girls were far and away stronger at everything else in science (especially "Inquiry"). Beyond that, girls beat the pants off the guys on all of the tests.

Other schools in my district show the same pattern, even if their particular numbers are a bit different.

Whether or not you like NCLB, it has caused us (meaning American educators) to really start taking a hard look at issues of equity. I personally believe that those conversations are long overdue, even if the structure of NCLB leaves much to be desired. Because we know that skin colour is just "skin deep," so why does it have such an enormous result in testing? And what do we do about that? We know that children who come to us from economically deprived backgrounds have fewer life experiences to draw from and that their background knowledge needs extensive support. How do we best do that to give them equal footing with their peers? Why does a Y chromosome apparently have so much influence over performance on standardized tests?

Or does it? Maybe it's the instruction. Well, more than "maybe." I really wonder what it is that we're doing in the classroom that creates some of these differences in the outcomes. What will I look for when I'm out at various schools? How can I help my colleagues address these differences and support student learning for all kids?

Lots of questions, I know. I am at the beginning of a journey for my district---and I'm not sure where it will lead. I have some numbers in my pocket and it's hard to divine a road map from them. Yes, kids are more than just numbers, but the data are signposts that some kids aren't getting what they deserve. Any Tour Guides out there?

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You Mean They're More Than Just Numbers?

08 September 2005

If you've been haunting Jenny D.'s blog (and you should if you haven't), then you know that there has been quite the discussion over there concerning her questions about what makes a good school and whether or not we should be educating everybody. I haven't jumped in because this is not the week for being clear headed about much of anything...but I have enjoyed pondering them when I've had a quiet moment.

And now I'd like to throw this into the mix: the most recent issue of Educational Leadership which is all about educating the whole child.

"Some critics have declared NCLB an unfunded mandate because it makes costly demands without providing the resources to meet them. Others point to its bureaucratic complexity; its unattainable main goal (100 percent of students proficient in reading and math by 2014); its motivationally undesirable methods (threats, punishments, and pernicious comparisons); its overdependence on standardized tests; its demoralizing effects; and its corrupting influences on
administrators, teachers, and students.

"All these criticisms are important, but NCLB has a more fundamental problem: its failure to address, or even ask, the basic questions raised in this issue of Educational Leadership: What are the proper aims of education? How do public schools serve a democratic society? What does it mean to educate the whole child?"

Wow---you mean kids aren't just numbers? There's more to them than that?

Lest you think I'm making fun of ASCD, I'm not. I'm just (happily) incredulous that in the current state of eduational melee that anyone has bothered to step back and ask these questions. I am very much in favour of thinking about the "whole child" when it comes to educational decisions. This is why it's heartbreaking to see extra- and co-curricular activities cut. This is why I take time to counsel kids each spring about their upcoming courseload...how it's one thing to challenge yourself and quite another to have no life outside of school. (There will be plenty of opportunity for that if they become teachers. :) ) This is why I consistently supported enrichment opportunities for students---taking them to the art museum or concerts or plays. And it's why I try to share as many resources as I can with my students. Learning should be a joy.

I'm not a teacher who thinks that NCLB is just going to "go away." Like it or not, the standards movement is here to stay. I disagree with several aspects of NCLB, but applaud its challenge to schools to ensure that all children have access to a quality education. I can imagine that the law will be modified over time. I'm hoping that it will be in the name of the "whole child," rather than for the selfish reasons of adults.

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They call me "Mr. Family and Consumer Sciences!"

24 April 2005

During my first year at my current school, I had a need for some saucepans for a lab. After confirming with the "Home Ec" teacher that I could borrow these, I sent up a kid to get them. My only mistake was that I wrote "Home Ec" on the hall pass.

The kid returned with the saucepans and a lot of literature. The teacher had seen "Home Ec" written on the pass and had a hissy fit. (After working with this woman for 9 years, I've found out that she has lots of hissy fits.) She grabbed all sorts of brochures about her program and then commenced to circle and highlight all the instances upon them where "Family and Consumer Sciences (FCS)" were written. The poor student was charged with coming back and witnessing to me about the error of my ways. FCS! Hallelujah! I see the light!

For those of you who, like me, took Home Ec in high school, let me assure you that FCS isn't really any different. You still learn how to sew and cook and balance the family checkbook. There are a few other courses beyond that, such as "Relationships" and "Advanced Child Psychology." Frankly, I don't think I ever fully recovered from my own Home Ec experience in high school. I was more or less forced to take it, because I went to a tiny high school with precious few elective options available. I remember sewing a hideous skirt. I also remember getting into an argument with the teacher about food. She said that if all the food on a plate was the same colour (e.g. chicken, mashed potatoes, corn) that it wouldn't taste good. I thought that was a bunch of bs. Sure, it might be quite as visually appealing as having some peas on the plate, but that nothing to do with how the food actually tasted. Silly me.

The FCS program at my school has been dwindling over the years. I guess we aren't the only ones. The New York Daily News is reporting that beginning in 2006, 500 Home Ec (their term, not mine) teachers in NY are about to lose their jobs due to lack of interest. The teachers are being encouraged to obtain a different certification---and the district will even reimburse their tuition costs.

I'm guessing from the article that many Home Ec teachers aren't taking the threat of losing their jobs too seriously, as "we have this problem every few years." But I tell you, in a land where NCLB is currently king, I'd be quaking in my boots.

My understanding is that NCLB is not "designed" to make elective options go away. Music, art, drama, shop classes, business ed., and yes, FCS, all have their place in today's high school. I want to see them stick around and be supported. The problem is simply that kids who don't achieve in math, science, and/or English are placed in remedial classes...which serve as their electives. Elective options are going to have to retool their programs to include more rigorous thinking and writing to help support student achievement, or like teachers in NY, they'll see their programs disappear. Gives a whole new spin on "survival of the fittest."

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Ethical Dilemma

14 March 2005

Some of you have been haunting this blog long enough that you might remember me talking about a plan that my department has. You see, NCLB requires that districts test students in science at 3 points in their scholastic journey---but, whether or not scores improve isn't factored into "Adequate Yearly Progress." In other words, while we have to test kids, it's okay to "leave them behind" in the case of science. Washington state, however, will require passing the science test as a graduation requirement for the class of 2010. My district---and certainly the building I work in---are scrambling to see what we can do to help kids meet the standards. Science is not used to being accountable.

But, back to my department. On Wednesday, we will hold the first of two "tutoring" sessions for kids who are in danger of not meeting the standard. Not all of the kids---just those that are so close that they would benefit from just a little boost.

There are 2 people in my building who are fuming over this. (One of the teachers is part-time in my department...both of them teach math.) It's completely unethical to do this! In tutoring these kids, you are consciously neglecting the students at the lower end! I sort of understand where they're coming from. We do need to do what we can to move all kids toward proficiency with the standards. But this "tutoring" is only one part of our overall plan for helping kids. Frankly, I think we're sort of revolutionary. How much money do schools pour out each year for low end (SPED) and high end (gifted, AP, etc.) kids? When was the last time we looked at the ones in the middle and lent them some support?

All of the kids who are participating on Wednesday have been asked. Each teacher has talked to the students about what their strengths and weaknesses are and why we think they might benefit. Nearly every kid we identified (through data) has been interested---and relieved. They want to succeed and seem genuinely grateful for some extra attention. Should we leave them to their own devices merely because of parity issues...because the "low" kids aren't getting the same presentation?

Part of me feels like lashing out at my naysaying colleagues. When was the last time the math department sat down and looked at data on current students and strategized to help them? I want to tell them, "You go to your church and we'll go to ours," in terms of how we address student needs. I want to tell my students to blow off the math WASL---but won't, since scores will be on their transcripts.

What I will tell my kids is that I care about whether or not they have the knowledge and skills to pass the WASL next month. And it's not because the scores are reported under my name or because there is some sort of pressure from upper echalons for improvement. It is because I believe that if they can kick butt on that test, those kids will know how to apply science to their daily lives. These are the kids who will read a research study in the paper and determine for themselves whether or not it is reasonable. These are the kids who will be able to ask intelligent questions of their healthcare providers. These are the kids who can think critically about information. Is there anything so wrong with that?

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Does the right piece of paper make you a teacher?

23 February 2005

The Elementary and Secondary Education Act has made it incumbent upon districts to place a "highly qualified" teacher in every classroom. According to the feds, this means the following conditions are satisfied:
  • Hold at least a bachelor’s degree from a regionally accredited institution of higher education;
  • Be fully licensed/certified (traditional or alternate route) with no waivers (i.e., no emergency certificates); and
  • Demonstrate content expertise by passing a state test of elementary content knowledge and teaching skills. (Elementary Only)
  • Demonstrate content expertise in each of the core academic subject(s) taught by doing the following (Secondary Only):
    1. Passing a rigorous state test; or
    2. Completing an academic major, coursework equivalent to a major, or a graduate degree; or
    3. Earning an advanced certification or credentials (i.e., National Board Certification).

When these standards were first proposed, each state was given a time period in which to either adopt the definition or supply their own. Most states didn't choose option 2, and many of them are hurting for "highly qualified" teachers. (FYI: Washington state did select its own description, and it isn't quite as involved as ESEA's.)

Increasing numbers of teacher are being certified via alternative routes, as mentioned in this article from the Philadelphia Inquirer. There are only so many people willing to do this job---far fewer than there are positions. It is reasonable to expect that states will find some other way to put certificates in the hands of more people.

I can't quite decide what to think about all of this. On one hand, as I reflect on my own certification process, I really didn't think it did much to prepare me for being in a classroom. Perhaps it's not such a bad idea to let people head out on the job and earn their paperwork along the way. Seems like they'll find out a whole lot faster whether or not the career suits them. And yet, with all of the "dropouts" from the profession each year and the associated costs---shouldn't we make sure that those being sent into the classroom have every available piece of background we can provide?

I like the idea of having good people in the classroom. I want someone who knows his/her "stuff" to be working with kids. But a piece of paper does not a teacher make. I can think of plenty of certificated staff who don't make a bit of difference in the classroom. And I certainly have met lots of people who have a great deal of subject matter knowledge but would make for bad teachers. I'm just not sure that the hoops the government is setting up will allow us to accurately distinguish which group is which.

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