Read This: ‘Highly Qualified’ Is Highly Misleading

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.

6 thoughts on “Read This: ‘Highly Qualified’ Is Highly Misleading

  1. Cris Clarke

    I too do not fit in the boxes. I have an Ed. D. with 15 years of teaching experience. I took and passed the Praxis I and II DPI will not certify me because my BS is not an education degree and my Ph.D. is in Instructional Design not an NCATE recognized program. Forget trying to be highly qualified…according to DPI I am not even qualified.

  2. Lyn Hilt

    This happened to me as well… with my initial elementary education cert. I was covered K-8, ended up teaching middle school science, reading, and language arts, and then the laws changed and we (elem. certified teachers in the middle school setting) were no longer “highly qualified.” I did end up taking the Praxis to get certified in middle level science and math. Did taking and passing those exams make me more qualified to teach anything? Hardly. Hoops to jump through. Unfortunate.

  3. Katie Caggia

    I agree completely! I am a physical education teacher with 14 years experience, I have my National Board Certification and re-certification, TOY for the State of NC in Physical Education, passed all my praxis tests when I graduated from UNC-CH and am not “highly qualified” . Why? Because I teach what is considered a “non-core” subject area. That type of mind set towards health and physical education does not raise test scores or work towards lowering childhood obesity.

  4. Kathie Marshall

    At my school we have a highly awarded performing arts choir directed by a choir director of 20+ years who’s been told he may lose this role because he isn’t highly qualified in music. He is NBCT in middle grades, however. I’m with you, Bill!

  5. Pat

    I think it is all about money and someone is making money from this! I was also not highly qualified to teach a high school special education self contained class even though I had a Masters +30, was Nationally Board Certified, and taught for 20+ years. I had to pass the elementary Praxis test in order to be considered highly qualified. Once I paid the money, and passed the test (that I did not study for), I was deemed highly qualified. By the way, the teacher next door to me was considered highly qualified because she had elementary certification and within the year was fired due to incompetence. I think the powers that be need to be more concerned about highly competent instead of highly qualified.

  6. AnnMaria

    I’m not highly qualified either (-:
    I have a Ph.D. and taught statistics for over 20 years at the freshman through doctoral level. For years, I taught at a community college that served 95% disadvantaged students; the average first year student tested at the 8th grade level in math. I am qualified to teach high school seniors right after they graduate. I am not, however, qualified at all to teach high school.
    I taught math at a private school years ago, took all of my education courses but did not do the student teaching as I had a job, uh, teaching.
    This is NOT to say that I’m qualified to teach elementary school (not enough Prozac on planet earth and my hat is off to you) but simply to concur that the highly qualified rigid standards don’t make much sense.
    I loved teaching middle school and would be happy to go back to it, but it makes no sense to me to take a pay cut AND jump through the hoops to be qualified. I guess I’m unreasonable too.

Comments are closed.