Teacher in front of classroom

Teacher Quality Debate Heats Up

By: Tara Kini
Date: July 30, 2012

If you could choose a teacher for your child or grandchild, would you pick someone just starting a teacher training program, or someone already fully trained and certified?

The answer is obvious. And yet, more than a year after Congress reversed our victory in Renee v. Duncan through an 11th-hour, closed-door amendment, we’re still seeking justice for low-income students, English learners, students with disabilities and other disadvantaged students who are disproportionately taught by teachers-in-training.

The problem is the result of a major loophole in No Child Left Behind (NCLB). This loophole defies common sense and harms students nationwide by defining intern teachers-in-training as “highly qualified” — and by failing to require schools to notify parents when their students are taught by interns.

We and our partners in the 90-member Coalition for Teaching Quality have been closely following some recent developments in the teacher quality debate — and weighing in ourselves. The inclusion of teachers-in-training in the “highly qualified” definition had been scheduled to phase out in 2013. But the House doesn’t appear willing to do the right thing and let that happen.

On July 18, the House Labor/Health and Human Services/Education/Related Agencies Appropriations Subcommittee mark up of a spending bill included a provision to extend the highly qualified teacher amendment until 2015. The Senate version of the bill does not include the extension. The full House Appropriations Committee is likely to take up the bill in September.

In the meantime, check out some of the recent news stories on this critical issue:

  • Education Week report by Alyson Klein details education spending cuts as well as the re-emergence of the highly qualified teacher provision. The article explores both sides of the debate and features opinions from our partners in the Coalition for Teaching Quality. Education Week blogger Narvi Shah also presents the disability advocacy community’s position on the issue.
  • The Onion Point/Counterpoint uses satire to lampoon the highly qualified teacher provision. An ostensibly fed-up kid serves up the counterpoint, asking, “Can we please, just once, have a real teacher?”
  • The Washington Post“Answer Sheet” by Valerie Strauss, in addition to referencing the Onion piece, delves further into the question “Does 5 weeks of training make a teacher highly qualified?”

Stay tuned as Congress writes the next chapter in the fight for teacher quality.