Friday, October 23, 2009

New US Department of Education Policy on NCLB Dings Texas

In an October 19 report on Texas’ compliance to policies outlined in the federal No Child Left Behind law, a law that is set to be rewritten very soon now, the feds have slammed Texas for its policy in classifying its new teachers as “highly qualified.”

From their report, which you can obtain here, this is the root of the problem:

“Citation: §9101(23)”

“Finding: The State allows new elementary teachers to demonstrate competence to determine highly qualified status by passing applicable ExCET (6-12 and PK-12) and/or TExES EC-12 single subject content tests. The State cannot count or report these teachers as highly qualified. Only the broad-field elementary assessment that measures competence across the core elementary curricula can be used to determine the highly qualified status of new elementary teachers.”

Translating, in order to be classified as “highly qualified,” a new elementary level teacher must pass a test that demonstrates general knowledge. Texas hired teachers that only passed tests on specific knowledge in their core area. For example, a 5th grade teacher who teaches math has passed only the math competency test but has been labeled “highly qualified” by the state.

How many teachers are we talking about here, anyway?

The state estimates we are talking about 30,000 teachers.

Now 30,000 teachers is a drop in the bucket in Texas, which has at last count, 600,000 teachers in public service, or about 5%, but this 5% comprises most of the newly certified teachers in Texas.

This has monetary ramifications as NCLB does not allow federal dollars to be spent in school districts that are not in compliance with NCLB. In other words, in the model of the carrot and the stick, it’s the equivalent of the stick. The carrot, federal inducement to improve education in the states, really doesn’t exist.

This has further repercussions in that in order to continue to receive these funds these teachers need to lose their jobs and right quick.

And I don’t know about you, but as a new teacher, I would not view education in a very positive light if I were let go because of this technicality in the law. I would just find another line of work.

The Department of Education report goes on, by the way, and tells the Texas Education Agency that they have 30 days to come up with a plan to implement the “correct HQT requirements” including notifying all parents of children whose teachers are now viewed as not highly qualified, as well as a plan to get these teachers – especially teachers in federally supported Title I and Title II Part A positions rated as highly qualified.

Now on top of not being able to use federal funds to pay these positions, the districts employing these teachers have to pay postage to send a letter to, oh, roughly 750,000 Texas households telling them that their local tax dollars are not at work.

I can’t think of a better way to enrage Texans than to say that their taxes are being used to fund districts that not only hire unqualified teachers, but lie about it to the feds.

Now I just have to wonder whether this would have been the case had Texas not gone for McCain/Palin in a big way last year.

Because all politics is local.

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