Who is teaching our children? As parents, we send our children to school every day with the assumption that the person leading the classroom is fully trained and certified. But are they?
Increasingly, classroom teachers are “teachers-in-training” (intern teachers) and have not yet received official certification through a school (because they haven’t completed their formal training) or through an alternate certification program. Teacher quality is a growing issue because of changes in federal policy that allow intern teachers to share the same status as fully qualified teachers. We know that qualified teachers make a difference in improving student achievement and in shaping students’ lives. Why, then, do we allow legislation, through the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (known as No Child Left Behind), to give “highly qualified” status to intern teachers who have not yet completed their training or certification?
Our country’s teaching population is changing, dramatically. There are more than 500 alternative certificate programs, of varying quality, and that number is expected to grow. This means thousands of adults, with only a few short weeks of training, are teaching children of all ages and educational needs, including students with learning disabilities (LD).
NCLD, working within a coalition of 90 organizations, is opposed to allowing intern teachers, who may only have a few weeks of training, to be considered “highly qualified.” This is not a position against teachers becoming trained via alternate certification routes, but rather, we believe these teachers should not share the same status as their fully certified colleagues. You can read more about NCLD’s role on our Happening on the Hill page.
NCLD believes it is important to know just how many of the most vulnerable students are being taught by the least experienced teachers. Because of the coalition’s advocacy efforts on this issue, NCLD helped secure a new reporting requirement in the 2013 federal funding bill, or Continuing Resolution, a bill that sets standards and funding levels for federal programs.
Now, the U.S. Department of Education must require states to document the numbers of teachers-in-training who are teaching students with disabilities, English Language learners, and students in rural areas and from low-income families in each of its districts. The report, due December 2013, will also include the number of teachers who have not met state qualifications or licensing criteria for the grade level and subject matter they are teaching. This information will be critical in developing future legislation to ensure that every child in every school district, especially those with LD, receives a high quality education.
Parents deserve to know who is teaching their child. Several senators and members of Congress agree and have spoken out in support of reforming alternative certification standards. Senator Murray spoke in favor of the new reporting provision and Senator Reed and Representative Honda introduced the Educator Preparation Reform Act, a bill to improve accountability for teacher preparation programs. It will also update the Teacher Quality Partnership Grant to include principals and the instructional needs of local school districts. You can follow the bills’ progress here.