School opened this week (one reason for the lack of blogging around these parts) and once again the overly large school district I work for hired about 1600 new teachers (I told you we were big). The need for all the new blood is usually due to a combination of growth and an increasing number of retirements.

But this year there’s a new wrinkle to the challenge of finding teachers.

Beginning in 2006, No Child Left Behind demands that every student have a "highly qualified" teacher in core academic classes. According to NCLB, to fit that definition an educator must "hold a bachelor’s degree and a full state teaching credential and demonstrate competence in the subjects they teach".

If that sounds rather vague, it is.

The federal law gives states significant leeway to define what veteran teachers must do to show subject-matter expertise. In some cases, teachers can get credit for professional development or school activities that have little or nothing to do with content mastery. Critics call that a major loophole.

"Loophole" is putting it kindly.

The teacher quality criteria in NCLB is more like minimally qualified. I’ve worked with people who knew Algebra inside and out but couldn’t relate the subject to a class of 9th graders. Under the rules, they would be classified as "highly qualified" to teach students.

But we all know that, for the politicians supporting this train-wreck of a law, it’s not about educating kids. It’s all about scores on standardized tests. Which is rather ironic. NCLB demands minimally qualified teachers to produce minimal learning.