Are Your Kids’ Teachers ‘Highly Qualified’?

Low-income students most likely to have the least qualified teachers

teachers
(Image: iStock/gradyreese)

I wish I had gone to better schools, but, the truth is, I didn’t. I remember very little of my kindergarten teacher, and nothing of my first-grade teacher, not even her name. My second-grade teacher was a thin, wizened, elderly woman. But my third- and fourth-grade teacher (she was the same person) was wonderful. I still remember the first day I saw her.

I was feeling dull and lackluster when I arrived at my third-grade classroom, expecting another nondescript, uninspiring educator—but instead, I encountered Miss Backinoff—a young, pretty, energetic teacher. Delighted, I entered her classroom excited about learning. My years with her were my best two years in public school.

 

Teachers Make the Difference

 

But, suppose I had had a teacher like Miss Backinoff K-2, and then 5-12? Unfortunately, I didn’t. My parents soon sent me to parochial school.

In an article in Education Week, “When ‘Highly Qualified Teachers’ Aren’t,” a writer discusses the research that confirms that low-income children attending underresourced schools are taught by teachers who are the least qualified.

Unlike other highly developed nations, the U.S. gives the most in resources to the wealthiest schools and districts. The neediest districts get the least.

Yet, teachers are critical to student success. According to the Ed Week article, however, we’re going backward by dumbing down teacher preparation and certification criteria. It isn’t a pretty picture.

Here’s an excerpt of that article:

Recent research confirms that America’s most vulnerable children are being taught by the least-qualified teachers. In 2016, the National Conference of State Legislatures noted that “most state education systems are falling dangerously behind the world. … At this pace, we will struggle to compete economically against even developing nations, and our children will struggle to find jobs in the global economy.”

One of the purported aims of the No Child Left Behind Act was to ensure a “highly qualified teacher” for every student in every classroom in America. Under that federal law, enacted 15 years ago, this generally required of teachers a bachelor’s degree, state certification, and content knowledge in the subjects they taught. While this is a nice idea, loopholes in alternative-certification programs and the proliferation of emergency certification to fill teaching shortages have made the goal of high quality impossible to achieve.

A teacher can fit the bill as being highly qualified even if he or she has no disposition for working with children, has never taken a course in child development or classroom management, and has done nothing to demonstrate mastery of his or her subject matter. If experience, disposition, education, or credentials don’t matter for prospective teachers, then what does?

Read more at Education Week.