The National Council on Teacher Quality (NCTQ) today released the second in a series of reports that highlights states' progress towards meeting NCLB's goal of putting a highly qualified teacher in every classroom in the nation.
In this comprehensive report we examine the steps taken by all 50 states to ensure that their practicing teachers are 'highly qualified.' We offer recommendations for changes to the law and suggest improved regulatory responses that would ultimately strengthen both new and veteran teachers.
Key recommendations include:
-At reauthorization, NCLB should be amended to grant middle school teachers highly qualified status, even if they only possess a college minor in their subject area. The law currently requires these teachers to have a major;
-Subject matter tests for elementary teachers should also include a test in scientifically-based early reading instruction;
-The federal government needs to take a more active role in bringing more public transparency to states' subject matter licensing exams, with an independent review body noting which tests are the most rigorous and recommending minimum passing scores on the most widely used tests.
NCTQ judged the 50 state HOUSSE plans against a set of criteria that gauged states' ability to identify and support weak teachers. Unfortunately, 20 states earned a grade of D or F, usually because their plans consist of asking teachers to 'search their attics' for documentation of any and all education-related activities that spanned their full careers, little of which provides current and objective evidence of competency. These state-approved activities commonly include attending workshops, either having been a mentor or being mentored, taking methodology courses, receiving a satisfactory teacher evaluation, serving on a school committee or attending conferences. The most disturbingly consistent features of many HOUSSE plans are the many loopholes that allow weak teachers to bypass the more rigorous routes that most states offer.
Colorado stands alone as the only state to earn an A, insisting that all teachers have at least 24 credit hours in their subject area under the belt or take a test. Another seven states earned B grades by approving plans that should result in practicing teachers, no matter what the rules were when they entered teaching, to obtain at least an academic minor in their subject area. These seven states are Alabama, Hawaii, Kansas, Maryland, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Texas and Vermont.
The chief conclusion of Searching the Attic is that most states are unlikely to make genuine strides in addressing teacher quality problems, insofar as veteran teachers are concerned. Most states aren't acknowledging the fallout from having demanded so little from teacher preparation over the years, nor are they looking for reasonable fixes. The U.S. Department of Education is unlikely to enforce a provision that is ambiguously worded, and it will likely want to avoid a political fireball as well.
For the full report, please visit www.nctq.org