Feds Approve Local Procedures For Evaluating Educators
June 21, 2006
By ROBERT A. FRAHM, Courant Staff Writer
Thousands of veteran Connecticut schoolteachers whose qualifications were called into question by a recent U.S. government review will no longer have to worry about undergoing additional training or testing, education officials said Tuesday.
After originally challenging Connecticut's procedures for evaluating teachers, the U.S. Department of Education, on further review, has approved those methods for determining whether teachers meet the federal standards as "highly qualified."
An estimated 13,000 teachers, about 30 percent of the state's public school teaching force, were uncertain of their status after federal monitors conducted a review in January, but the government's latest stance means most of those teachers will meet the standards established under the federal No Child Left Behind Act.
"It's a big relief," state Education Commissioner Betty J. Sternberg said.
Earlier this spring, Sternberg said she feared the federal law might require teachers to undergo testing or further training to demonstrate their competence. Now, however, U.S. officials have agreed that they can establish their qualifications in job reviews conducted by local school districts.
Teacher quality is a key element of the No Child Left Behind Act, the 4-year-old school reform law that is the centerpiece of President Bush's educational agenda.
The law, which calls for a broad expansion of school testing and a shake-up of schools that fail to make adequate progress, requires states to ensure that all teachers are "highly qualified."
What that means is that all teachers - aside from having at least a bachelor's degree and state certification - must demonstrate knowledge in the academic subjects they teach. States failing to meet that goal could risk millions of dollars in federal money.
In its earlier review, federal officials said that Connecticut elementary teachers who were certified before 1988 may not have demonstrated competence to teach core academic subjects such as English, reading, math and science. The state began testing all new teachers, starting in 1988, in subject-matter knowledge.
The federal monitors also had questioned whether a broad general test required of the state's social studies teachers was adequate to measure competence in the specific areas of history, geography, civics and economics.
The issues raised by the monitors potentially affected many older elementary teachers and special education teachers, as well as social studies teachers.
However, state officials submitted a detailed response to the federal review, and U.S. officials determined that the state procedures, including the local job reviews of teachers, met the necessary requirements of No Child Left Behind.
"We commend your excellent work in responding to the concerns raised by the monitoring report," Assistant U.S. Secretary of Education Henry L. Johnson wrote to Sternberg. Nevertheless, because not all teachers will meet the law's standard this school year, the state must submit a revised plan for meeting the standard for the 2006-07 year, Johnson said.
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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