Are the Best Teachers Highly Qualified?
by Kelley Atkins
What is teaching exactly? Some argue that it is a learned profession, others say it requires many years of training. I believe it is a combination of both. “Teaching is, or ought to be, a difficult and complex endeavor. When one considers what is expected of a teacher in terms of end results- the preservation and improvement of our culture and civilization- teaching is perhaps the most important job in a democratic society.” (Troen and Boles, 34 and 35)
Teachers are a special kind of human beings. They are willingly entering a career with minimum room for promotion, hardly any recognition from society, a dastardly amount of pay, and in many cases, unfavorable working conditions. It takes a special person to become a teacher, especially to become a good teacher. Anyone can become a teacher, hence the phrase, “Those who can’t do, teach.” In order to become an influential teacher you not only have to be highly qualified, you have to be highly dedicated. In the book “Extraordinary Teachers, The Essence of Excellent Teaching,” Fred Stephenson outlines the qualities of an extraordinary teacher:
1. Extraordinary teachers have a great passion for their work.
2. Extraordinary teachers know what to teach, how to teach, and how to improve.
3. Extraordinary teachers excel at creating exciting classroom environments.
4. Extraordinary teachers connect exceptionally well with students.
5. Extraordinary teachers challenge students to reach their full potential.
6. Extraordinary teachers get extraordinary results.
Stephenson, Introduction page xix.
Standards, degrees, laws, or any other structural requirement is not stated on this inspiring list. The essence of teaching is wanting your students to excel, genuinely caring about their success, and having the will to improve your own methods. It is a sad misconception that anyone can teach, and that it takes minimal skill and talent. To be a highly qualified teacher, one must be a dedicated, hard-working person, who is drawn to teaching through a sense of high purpose and social conscience. “They genuinely like children and want to help them achieve success.” (page 32 Troen and Boles) Aside from these personal characteristics, a highly qualified teacher should also be competent. This is the side of teaching that requires passing exams, mastering material, and holding up to government standards.
“In my opinion, mastery of the subject matter and staying current, having a teaching plan, and being organized, and developing one’s communication skills are the responsibility of every teacher. These are components of effective teaching that teachers owe their students.
Keith J. Karnok, “Thoughts on College Teaching”
If our teachers are to become more highly qualified in an academic sense, we should make it a priority to make the standards and/or qualifications as well as their implementation more clear and concise. In a study performed to uncover the “implementation of the highly qualified teacher provisions of the No Child Left Behind Act,” the following was found:
•While the majority of teachers were aware of the state requirements for highly qualified teachers, nearly half of the teachers said they had not received official notification of their status.
•Special education teachers were almost four times as likely to report that they were not considered highly qualified (15 percent) than were general education teachers (4 percent).
•Nearly all teachers reported taking part in content-focused professional development related to teaching reading or mathematics, but only 20 percent of elementary teachers participated in more than 24 hours of professional development on reading strategies, and only 8 percent participated in extended training in teaching mathematics.
•About half of high school mathematics teachers (49 percent) said they received no professional development focused on the study of mathematics content.
•States have been working to update their data systems, but most reported difficulty tracking some data elements and in collecting and maintaining data on teacher qualifications.
•A minority of districts provided targeted support for teachers who were not considered highly qualified. About one-third of districts reported providing increased amounts of professional development to teachers who were not highly qualified with little variation by poverty or minority level or district size.
•Almost two-thirds (63 percent) of Title I instructional paraprofessionals were identified as qualified; 28 percent did not know their status. Paraprofessionals in medium- and high-poverty schools were notably less likely to have completed two years of college or an associate degree (one of the three NCLB requirements) than were paraprofessionals in low-poverty schools.
The No Child Left Behind Act has a meaningful and potentially influential purpose, but it has not been implemented to its full degree. If teachers were actually held to the standards it provides, school systems today would be a completely different level of achievement. Some of standards set by the NCLBA are listed below:
• Elementary teachers must pass a state test demonstrating their subject knowledge and teaching skills in reading/language arts, writing, mathematics and other areas of basic elementary school curricula.
• Middle and high school teachers must demonstrate a high level of competency in each academic subject area they teach. Such demonstration can occur either through passage of a rigorous state academic subject test or successful completion of an undergraduate major, a graduate degree, coursework equivalent to an undergraduate major, or an advanced certification or credentialing.
“Good teaching requires a lifelong commitment to learning.”
by Fred Stephenson, “Extraordinary Teachers, The Essence of Learning”
The NCLBA defines “a highly qualified teacher as one who has (1) fulfilled the state’s certification and licensing requirements, (2) obtained at least a bachelor’s degree, and (3) demonstrated subject matter expertise.” Meeting these standards is very important in the process of becoming a highly qualified teacher. In order to relay information to his/her students, a teacher must be confident in their own mastering of that information. “Research shows that teacher subject-matter knowledge is greatly associated with student learning.” (wikiweb3) When a teacher is confident in their knowledge, it makes portraying that information easier and more effective. Requiring that teacher candidates pass certain tests and attain certain degrees gives further insurance of their competientcy.
To become a highly qualified teacher is no easy task, in any sense of the term. Not only do you have to meet government standards, which are evaluated and altered very frequently, you also have to meet your own standards. Starting with personal characteristics that include compassion, dedication, and patience is ideal. Combing these attributions with standards provideded by a higher power only completes the model. Highly qualified teachers are indeed the best teachers, they are the only teachers. If a teacher is not highly qualified, I do not believe they are a teacher at all. An un-qualified teacher is merely someone looking to pay the bills, not change lives.
1. What percent of high school mathematics teachers said they received no professional development focused on the study of mathematics content?
2. While the majority of teachers were aware of the state requirements for highly qualified teachers, how many of the teachers said they had not received official notification of their status?
A. nearly all
C. nearly half
3. What kind of degree does the No Child Left Behind Act require for teachers?
D. no degree
4. Is teaching viewed as a prosperous career by society today?
(2008). No Child Left Behind Act. Retrieved January 31,2008f rom Wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/No_Child_Left_Behind_Act
(2007) Most Teachers “Highly Qualified” Under NCLB Standards, But Teacher Qualifications Lag in Many High Poverty and High Minority Schools. Retrieved February 2, 2008 from American Institutes For Research http://www.air.org/news/pr/teacher_qualifications.aspx
(2007) Recognizing and Rewarding Our Best Teachers. Retrieved February 1, 2008 from Ed.gov. http://www.ed.gov/nclb/methods/teachers/incentivefund.html
(2004) New No Child Left Behind Flexibility: Highly Qualified Teachers. Retrieved February 1, 2008 from Ed.gov. http://www.ed.gov/nclb/methods/teachers/hqtflexibility.html
(2006)Highly Qualified Teachers for Every Child. Retrieved February 1, 2008 from Ed.gov. http://www.ed.gov/nclb/methods/teachers/stateplanfacts.html
(2007) No Child Left Behind: A Toolkit for Teachers. Retrieved February 1, 2008 from Ed.gov. http://www.ed.gov/teachers/nclbguide/toolkit_pg6.html
Troen, V. and Boles, Katherine C. (2003) “Who’s teaching your children?”
Stephenson, Fred. (2001) “Extraordinary Teachers, The Essence of Excellent Teaching”