Quality Educators In Every Classroom and School
Priorities for Changing NCLB:
What is NEA's view of the highly qualified teacher provisions of NCLB?
NEA absolutely supports the requirement that every child be taught by a qualified, certified, caring teacher. There are serious problems, however, with the "highly qualified" provisions.
The one-size-fits-all definition -- a characteristic of this law -- fails to recognize the structure of certain teaching assignments. For example, fully certified special education teachers who teach multiple subjects are required to demonstrate that they are highly qualified in every academic subject that they teach. A similar challenge faces some middle school and rural school teachers.
The NCLB teacher quality mandates are overly focused on "content" knowledge -- what teachers know about their subject -- and overlook the importance of knowing how to teach, of presenting information effectively and connecting with an increasingly diverse student population. Effective teachers have both content knowledge and instructional skills.
The rigid "highly qualified" requirements force too many teachers and paraprofessionals to clear a succession of hurdles, and they are driving some out of the profession, making it even more difficult to recruit and retain quality educators. They also include loopholes that exempt some charter school teachers and those going through alternate routes to certification from the requirements.
How would NEA change the law on teacher and paraprofessional quality?
The best way to ensure that all teachers and paraprofessionals are effective is to provide them with the tools and supports they need, such as mentoring programs, quality professional development, improved working conditions, support from other professionals such as school counselors, increased time for collaboration and planning with colleagues, and smaller classes.
NEA's priorities on teacher quality include:
- Allowing states reasonable, needed flexibility in deeming teachers and paraprofessionals highly qualified, and deeming National Board Certified teachers as highly qualified, to help schools retain talented educators.
- Increasing funding for the Teacher Quality State Grants. The grants support ongoing professional development for teachers and paraprofessionals to deepen and broaden content knowledge and hone teaching skills.
- Offering incentives to attract and retain teachers in high-poverty and other hard-to-staff schools, so that students are not taught disproportionately by inexperienced and/or out-of-field teachers.
- NEA strongly opposes proposals that student test scores should dictate who is deemed qualified to teach.