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Leave no teacher behind

Aug. 15, 2003

KALAMAZOO -- How is it that an effective teacher with more than a decade of classroom experience could be out of a job soon? Four words: No Child Left Behind. The controversial 2001 legislation calls for all educators who teach core academic subjects to be "highly qualified" no later than the 2005-06 school year.

"There are a lot of veteran teachers who have been out there for 20-plus years, especially in middle school, who are teaching in areas that they minored in, or in areas where they may have been originally certified to teach all subjects," explains Jane Kramer, certification officer for the WMU College of Education. "Although they are fully state-certified, now they must meet the NCLB requirements."

The mandate means educators must hold a bachelor's degree, meet full state certification and demonstrate subject area knowledge--usually on a rigorous state-issued exam--for every core subject they teach.

"We are fortunate in Michigan that we have many outstanding teacher preparation institutions and three of the largest teacher preparation institutions in the country," says Kramer. "Other states have serious problems recruiting enough qualified and certified teachers. We actually export a number of teachers to other states."

Recent WMU graduates will face few, if any, problems related to the qualifications. Most likely to be affected are small school districts, which have fewer dollars to hire "highly qualified" educators to teach single subjects like physics, chemistry or biology.

The controversy concerning teacher quality and educators teaching outside their college majors isn't new. So why are policymakers rethinking what it takes to be a qualified teacher? The tendency has been to blame teachers for low student achievement, with some of the pressure coming from the federal level and some of it coming from parents.

"It is important, however, to keep in mind that teachers today are better prepared than ever," says Kramer, "but they are being asked to fill multiple roles to help today's students achieve."

Jane Kramer can be reached at (269) 387-3476 or <jane.kramer@wmich.edu>.

Media contact: Gail Towns, (269) 387-8400, gail.towns@wmich.edu

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