Pennsylvania Retreats

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In the April 2, 2004 TQB (Vol. 5, No. 8), we reported on the abysmal test scores of middle school teachers in Pennsylvania. While the scores were disheartening, we credited NCLB with finally forcing states to face the music and deal with teachers' weak grasp of the subjects they teach.

It appears Pennsylvania has figured out a way to remedy those scores: just eliminate the requirement that made teachers take the test in the first place. Pennsylvania joins a host of other states that allow teachers to "prove" their subject matter knowledge using such nefarious means as years of experience, writing articles in journals, attending professional development, earning awards, tutoring, and coursework (that's one reliable measure out of seven by our count). Using these cop-out standards, teachers can become "highly qualified" and "fully certified" at the same time.

Kati Haycock, director of the Education Trust, accurately dubbed the move "sad" and "a step backwards." Pennsylvania Education Secretary Vicki Phillips disagreed saying the alternative "will keep 'highly qualified' and 'fully certified' synonymous." We couldn't disagree more. There's a decision needed here by Congress and the Department of Education: either throw out this provision of NCLB as the farce it has become or hold states' feet to the fire.