More News on the HQT Front

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Perhaps it's the clock ticking away closer to 2006, perhaps it's the lack of even a whisper on the Hill advocating for a repeal of the law, perhaps it's US ED's sudden energy in actually enforcing the law, whatever the reasons, the heat is turning up on the Highly Qualified Teacher (HQT) mandate. States and school districts seem to be divided into two camps, as illustrated by these three stories: creative problem solvers who have been at work on this issue for a while and stragglers who claim money and a lot more of it is the only way that they'll meet the deadline.

In Maryland, three school districts have asked for budget increases between 9 and 14 percent to "cover the costs" of employing more highly qualified teachers. John Hayden, a Baltimore County school board member, points out that schools of education are not producing enough teachers to keep pace with teacher vacancies. Hayden?s solution? "We need to throw more money out to attract [prospective teachers] into the teaching business."

Michigan officials are reporting that the state is in good shape to meet the HQT deadline since the state already required teachers to pass a basic skills test plus subject matter tests for middle and high school or a general elementary test to teach younger students. Michigan seems ready to meet the HQT mandate, but the unions are still taking issue with the law, "The biggest result is the requirement to jump through hoops. If it was intended to help improve the quality of teachers, that's not the result I've seen," said Paul Morrison, a teacher union leader from Ann Arbor. Morrison later backtracks, "There's a potential public relations nightmare in not meeting the requirements, so we?re going to do it."

In Maine, the Department of Education has taken up the role of "point man" to make sure that the courses teachers need to take to become highly qualified are being offered and that teachers don't have to travel too far to do so. Local school districts, the University of Maine system, and the Maine Department of Education have jointly created "Regional Teacher Development Centers," at local University of Maine campuses to offer the classes most needed for teachers in those regions. The result is impressive- over 90% of Maine teachers are reportedly highly qualified, while more regional centers will be opening around Maine to address the remaining 10% of teachers needing more coursework to meet the federal deadline.