Number Games

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And now it's time for the weekly updates from the tumultuous world of the Highly Qualified Teacher provision of No Child Left Behind.

The Keystone State announced last week that 90 percent of Philadelphia's public school teachers are considered "highly qualified." This number still trails the state mark of 97 percent and it represents a slight 3 percent increase since 2001 2002. Unfortunately, these numbers remains abstractions as long as it remains unclear how (if at all) Pennsylvania is measuring subject matter competency for veteran teachers, a key feature to the highly qualified provision.

In the Land of the Midnight Sun, teachers voted this past weekend to urge the state to say goodnight to No Child Left Behind and its accompanying teacher quality provisions. Rich Kronberg, president of the National Education Association's Alaska chapter explained: "The organization's opinion is they would rather not have the funding and not have to deal with the mandates." A bold statement considering last year the Anchorage School District, which is confronting a $20 million deficit for the upcoming fiscal year, received $38 million in federal funds. An even bolder statement, considering there were only 50 teachers at the meeting.

An even smaller group, a House committee in the Beehive State, created quite a buzz last week when it voted unanimously to advance a bill to opt out of No Child Left Behind and forfeit the $103 million provided for programs and services. (The U.S. Department of Ed was stung by the news.) U.S. Rep. Chris Cannon, perhaps not cognizant of the mediocre NAEP scores registered by his state's students, lauded the move saying: "We need the bureaucrats to figure out Utah does a pretty good job and we want to do it our way."

Superintendent of Salt Lake City Schools McKell Withers wasn't so sure. Suggesting the Utah House was playing a high-risk game of chicken with the federal government, Withers cautioned lawmakers hoping to finagle a deal with the Department of Education that would permit them to opt out without losing funding: "I doubt [the federal government] is going to say, 'We thank you for making this a huge political issue, we accept your apology and here's your money.'" Yeah, that probably won't happen.