Raising The Grade: Qualified Teachers

Thursday, July 1st 2004, 9:05 am
By: News On 6

How qualified is the teacher teaching your kids? The State Department of Education claims a little more than 97% of state teachers meet a highly qualified standard. But one education group claims part of that standard is not high enough.

News on 6 reporter Tamara Pratt takes a closer look in this Raising The Grade report.

Where do you find a highly qualified teacher? First look at the definition. According to federal law, No Child Left Behind, a highly qualified teacher holds a minimum of a bachelor's degree. Has a state certification or license. And has proven they know the subject area they teach. That covers most new teachers in Oklahoma. In fact, based on data the state was required to report last fall.

Oklahoma claimed highly qualified teachers taught 64% of its classrooms. That included teachers who have completed subject testing since 1982. Where does that leave the other teachers? Many are being qualified through a program called the House provision. Designed by the state, teachers can demonstrate content knowledge through a combination of factors other than testing.

But one group says those factors are not enough. Kevin Carey with the Education Trust, an education think tank in Washington DC, explained his beliefs. "Now we at the education trust have examined the definitions that all 50 states have implemented and I think that what we find is Oklahoma’s definition is not as rigorous as other states have adopted. Expound on not as rigorous. Some states have adopted straightforward and rigorous standards for content knowledge. They say you have to have either majored in that subject in college or you have to pass state certification tests, which is actually the requirement for all new teachers. Other states like Oklahoma have adopted an alternative process for veteran teachers where basically you go through a laundry list of things you might have done during your career.”

Under the state provision teachers must reach 100 points, to be considered highly qualified. They earn those points for college coursework, years in the classroom, academic service, like mentoring or sponsoring. Awards, professional development and student achievement.

As for the criticism, the State Department of Education says what it's doing to get veteran teachers highly qualified is rigorous. Pointing out the majority of the state’s 30,000 teachers have completed subject teaching, a big difference, they say, compared to other states who haven't even started.

By law, as a parent, you are entitled to know if your child's teacher meets the highly qualified standard. Just contact your school or the district. What professional development is teacher getting? You could also ask, what kind of professional development is your child's teacher getting. What is school doing? And find out what efforts your child's school is making to improve the quality of teaching.