The overly large school district for which I work must be doing something right. Ninety-seven percent of our teachers are “highly qualified”.

But we still have some work to do since 100% of the teachers in one of the counties to our west fall into that category.

That “highly qualified” label comes from the “often vague and open to broad interpretation” standards in our favorite train wreck of a law, No Child Left Behind.

Legal loopholes and uneven implementation by states and the U.S. Department of Education have diluted the law’s impact on the teaching workforce, some education experts say. They say that meeting the standards of quality is more about shuffling paper than achieving two vital goals: ensuring that teachers are prepared to help students succeed and reducing the teacher talent gap between rich and poor schools.

“Meeting the qualifications has become an exercise in bureaucratic compliance,” said Andrew J. Rotherham, a member of the Virginia Board of Education and a former education adviser in the Clinton administration. “It’s not a process that gets at the fundamental issues of quality or effectiveness.”

To be considered “highly qualified” in most states a teacher needs to have a college degree in the subject they are teaching and meet any other requirements for a state teaching certificate.

In some places they only need to pass a test in addition to the degree.

Almost no one would consider a doctor, lawyer, engineer, accountant, or member of just about any other profession “highly qualified” with those minimal standards.

And therein lies the problem. The politicians who wrote this law (and a good many of their constituents) don’t view teaching as a profession.

It’s simply a job that can be done by anyone with a little bit of knowledge and a minimal amount of preparation.

However, this kind of tinkering at the edges will not do much to help that perception – or do much to improve teacher quality for that matter.

Some experts favor shifting the emphasis from “highly qualified” to “highly effective” teachers, requiring states to look not just at credentials but how well individual teachers help students learn and perform on tests.

Miller [Chair of the House Education Committee] said the current standards for subject matter competence and certification are the “bare minimum” and said that the government should establish systems to increase teacher effectiveness.

Not unless we can get past the incredibly stupid concept at the core of NCLB which says that scores on standardized tests are the only valid measurements of student learning.

But that’s a subject for (many) other rants.

nclb, highly qualified, teachers