If you believe this report by Ws Department of Education, Alaska has almost no "highly qualified" teachers in their public school classrooms while almost all the teachers in Wisconsin are "highly qualified". The statistics are important to schools and states since the No Child Left Behind legislation requires that every student be taught by a "highly qualified" teacher by the fall of 2006. To be anointed with that title, a teacher must have at least a bachelors degree and state certification in all the subject areas they teach.
Which is a crappy definition! By that criteria I would have been declared "highly qualified" the first day I walked into the classroom – and I’d be the first to tell you my qualifications to teach at that point were pretty basic. A variety of studies and lots of personal experience says that it takes four or five years of practice and mentoring for most people to grow into a good teacher. It doesn’t happen right out of college and it sure doesn’t happen by just taking a couple of government sanctioned standardized tests.
Another problem with the way that W wants to define "highly qualified" is that there is much more to being a good teacher (much less a great one) than just knowing the subject. Of course a teacher should know their material. But how many of you have known Ph.D.s that couldn’t teach their specialty if their life depended on it? And known great teachers who didn’t have the degree that matched their teaching assignment?
I fully support the NCLB requirement that students have a "highly qualified" teacher. Let’s just come up with realistic, high standards and then pay for the training and support necessary to make it work. Without both the standards and the support, this part of NCLB is just another empty political con job.