Last week, as part of Ws Department of Education’s report on teacher quality, Wisconsin was declared to have almost 99% of their teachers rated "highly qualified" (as noted in a previous rant). However, this finding came as a surprise to school administrators in the state. It seems different bureaucracies have different ideas of what it means to be a "highly qualified" teacher.
Under Wisconsin’s definition, teachers on emergency certificates – who don’t even meet the state’s requirements for full certification – are considered highly qualified. That’s something that education groups say goes against one of the federal law’s major precepts.
And there are other problems with the way Wisconsin defines "highly qualified".
For example, many states have elaborate criteria to make sure their middle and high school teachers meet the federal requirement that they demonstrate knowledge of the subjects they teach. For veteran teachers, the federal law requires that they either pass a subject test or possess a college major in their subject area or some equivalent.
Wisconsin says its current state teacher certification requirements are tough enough, allowing high school teachers to teach subjects in which they possess only minors, and middle school teachers to teach with a generalist license, which requires neither a major nor a minor in the areas they teach.
Wisconsin’s problem with trying to identify what makes a "highly qualified" teacher is being replicated in 49 other states (plus DC, of course). But a big part of the blame must lie with the Congress that passed the No Child Left Behind legislation. As is common with Congressional edicts, the politicians completely abdicated their responsibilities by pushing off all the hard decisions on each of the states, thereby giving the members lots of scapegoats to blame when some part of the plan didn’t work.