Last week, an "anomaly amendment" was inserted into Congress's Continuing Resolution (a stop-gap that allows the government to continue functioning in the absence of an official budget.) The amendment in question allows teachers who are in an alternative certification program, regardless of the amount of time they've been teaching or whether or not they've obtained licensure in their respective states, to be considered "highly qualified" under No Child Left Behind (NCLB) regulations.
It comes as no surprise that the amendment received a major push from Teach for America, a program whose mission is to place inexperienced teachers, most of whom are fresh out of college, in high needs schools across the country.
I stumbled across this great bit by Ilana Garon—a Bronx High School teacher and graduate of a New York State alternative certification program—on The Huffington Post the other day. It's an incredibly honest reflection on just how qualified Garon was to teach after graduating from one of the all-too-common summer crush programs that Teach-for-America-types put their uber-candidates through.
Long story short: Garon wasn't qualified at all. And she knew it.
What really frightened me, though, was the paragraph that I spotlighted above. If Garon's got this right—I haven't done the policy poking to figure out for sure if she does, but I'm inclined to believe her—I'm about to get downright pissy with Congress again.
Here's why: I've got FIVE YEARS of college education—a BS and MS in Elementary Education—AND National Board Certification as a Middle Childhood Generalist, and I'm not even highly qualified!
Now to be perfectly honest, half of the reason for my lack of qualification is because I'm being difficult. Here in North Carolina, the only way a teacher with a degree in elementary education can earn highly qualified status is by taking the Praxis test and I've just plain refused to do it.
My stand is a simple one: 6th grade teachers with a degree in middle grades education who earn National Board Certification in North Carolina are automatically highly qualified. 6th grade teachers with a degree in elementary education who earn National Board Certification aren't.
That's ridiculous to me.
To think that two teachers working in the same grade level are held to two completely different sets of standards when determining who is qualified and who isn't drives me politically nuts. It's just more evidence of how ineffective educational policy really is.
And even though I'm legal now—I was recertified based on my National Board Certification as a middle grades teacher—I take this highly qualified stuff pretty darn personally. You would too if you couldn't teach elementary school even though you had 5 years of college education to do the job.
But to think that Congress is now readily offering highly qualified status—something I can't get no matter how many college classes I aced—-to teachers who have little more than a few weeks of summer courses might be more than I can bear.
It's lunacy, y'all.
But who am I, right? I'm not even highly qualified.