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The last gasps of the 110th 111th Congress may well produce a small provision looking to protect the right of Teach for America and other programs to send tens of thousands of teachers in training to teach in disproportionate numbers in low-income and high minority schools—and to do so without public exposure or scrutiny.

The provision, which has grassroots and community groups across the country up in arms, would permit teachers still training in night or weekend alternative preparation programs (known as interns in some states) to be labeled as "highly qualified" teachers under No Child Left Behind. That designation relieves districts of having to tell parents of the teacher's sub-par preparation and allows their continued concentration in poor and minority schools.

The provision originally appeared Tuesday in the Omnibus budget bill that Sen Reid pulled off the floor Thursday night. John Affeldt's Huffington Post piece shone light on the language in that bill, noting:

The attempt to insert the controversial language comes just weeks after a panel of the Ninth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals in Renee v. Duncan agreed with low-income students and community organizations that teachers still in training are not "highly qualified" under NCLB and, as such, would have to be publicly reported and equitably distributed.

Teach for America, which has vociferously opposed the lawsuit and has substantial clout on Capitol Hill, is the most likely suspect behind the covert attempt to overturn the court's decision through stealth legislation.

Now, word has it that TFA has pushed hard and may succeed in inserting the language in the Continuing Resolution, which must be approved by Tuesday.

A last-minute spending bill negotiated behind closed doors is no place to make a substantive change to NCLB that will have far-reaching effects on low-income and minority students’ access to qualified teachers.

This amendment will enshrine into law the practice of concentrating intern teachers-in-training into low-income, high-minority schools by defining these teachers as "highly qualified."  NCLB promised our children the right to equal access to fully-trained, "highly qualified" teachers. Through this amendment, Congress would be turning its back on that promise.

In strongly-worded press statements and a letter to Congress last week, grassroots community groups representing over half a million low and moderate income families across the country made it clear that they want equal access to the same fully prepared teachers that affluent communities have but apparently Teach for America hasn’t heard them. They are more intent on maintaining their current business model.

The amendment will also gut the parent-right-to-know provisions of NCLB by relieving districts of their obligation to inform parents when their child is being taught by a teacher who is not fully-credentialed. Parents have a right to know when their child is being taught by a teacher who is not fully-credentialed.

If Congress truly supports making low-income students and students of color the training ground for intern teachers who are still learning how to teach, then it should make this radical policy change in the full light of day, through the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) reauthorization process.
The point Affeldt makes at the end of his post remains the same.

The irony of the amendment has not been lost on parents and students. As William Browning from ACTION United in Pennsylvania said today, "It's so wrong that a law that was meant to promote transparency, accountability, and parental participation is being gutted through a last minute, behind-closed-doors appropriations act with little public participation or scrutiny."

Even if the last minute attempts to include the amendment in the omnibus bill and/or the fallback Continuing Resolution fail, this 11th-hour introduction does not bode well for an open and democratic debate on teacher quality equity going forward.

The answer to whether the provision is revived in the Continuing Resolution is behind closed doors as of this writing.  However it comes out, this is not how to make education policy, particularly when it comes to deciding teacher quality for the nation’s neediest students.

Originally posted to wynns world on Sun Dec 19, 2010 at 11:38 PM PST.

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Comment Preferences

    •  One problem is (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      that fewer top-notch college students WANT to be teachers today.  It used to be a profession with respect and enough compensation to live a moderate life.  It has become a job with regular rants blaming teachers for things out of their control and lower salaries.  Less respect and less money (with the villification of unions) doesn't exactly get people to line up wanting to be the next group.

      •  The money isn't the issue, by and large. (0+ / 0-)

        The money is fully competitive with what you'd make in other non-business-and-engineering fields with a BA, and there are pretty decent lifestyle perks.  It's more an issue of professional respect, since society hasn't figured out how to square that respect with the real power society exercises, through elected school boards, over K-12 education.

        "George Washington said I was beautiful"--Sarah Palin on Barbara Bush, as imagined by Mark Sumner

        by Rich in PA on Mon Dec 20, 2010 at 06:25:03 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  I'm not following the diary (0+ / 0-)

    but am trying to. Perhaps some links would help about Teach for America (I think I know the program, but teach at the college level and am not sure).

    Explain please? Thanks.

    "There are always two parties; the establishment and the movement." - Emerson

    by mahakali overdrive on Mon Dec 20, 2010 at 12:05:14 AM PST

  •  I need more information... (0+ / 0-)

    draft language for the amendment would be helpful, and I'd like to know more about policies for placing those who will be in the TFA program.

    I suspect that if they are assigned to be the sole teacher in a classroom of +25 kids, they will burn out quickly and agree many of the students won't be well served.

    Slavery is the legal fiction that a person is property. Corporate personhood is the legal fiction that property is a person. -Jan Edwards

    by SoCalSal on Mon Dec 20, 2010 at 01:04:27 AM PST

    •  The Amendment working is cryptic (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

       "Sec. 163. (a) A `highly qualified teacher’ includes a teacher who meets the requirements in 34 C.F.R. 200.56(a)(2)(ii), as published in the Federal Register on December 2, 2002.

         "(b) This provision is effective on the date of enactment of this provision through the end of the 2012-2013 academic year.

      TFA interns like other teachers are assigned by their districts and generally find themselves as the sole teacher in a class of 25+ kids. They are likely to end up in a classroom filled with low-income and minority students, as research shows those most likely to be taught by teachers who are brand new to the profession, who have not completed full certification, and/or who are teaching out-of-field.

      •  "sink or swim" for everyone doesn't make (0+ / 0-)

        good policy. The term "intern" should be defined as one learning with supervision.

        Slavery is the legal fiction that a person is property. Corporate personhood is the legal fiction that property is a person. -Jan Edwards

        by SoCalSal on Mon Dec 20, 2010 at 03:24:41 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  If you think... (0+ / 0-)

    A fully prepared teacher is someone who made it through an ed school, then you need to understand that ed schools in this country are a complete joke. Ed schools are the laughingstock of higher education.

  •  Also... (0+ / 0-)

    If you gave inner-city principals the chance to get rid of ALL teachers and replace them with TFA staff, many of them would jump at the chance.

  •  US throws in towel on public education (0+ / 0-)

    We may not have a great system, nor attract the "best and brightest", but at least we are trying!
    TFA pulls in  jobless grads who have NO DESIRE to make a career out of teaching, just add a line in the resume. They actually tell the jobless grads that it will help them get into grad school as an incentive. Ya think they will put in all the time that an intending teacher will to put together good lesson plans?  The intending teacher can use those for years.  The TFA won't, so what's their incentive.
    Besides, the TFA have their mentor in the last superintendent of Washington DC schools: leave before the student test scores are out, and then claim privacy concerns to keep them under wraps.

  •  Randi Weingartner's NYT essay yesterday (0+ / 0-)

    address these issues:

    In Finland, which I recently visited, teacher training is demanding, rigorous and extensive -- with ample clinical experience. Teachers in these countries are esteemed, and are expected to make teaching their profession, and they're virtually 100 percent unionized.

  •  I was one of those teachers.... (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    celdd, SingleVoter, LI Mike

    "Highly qualified" itself is a myth.

    At the time that Wynn's World feels I was not highly qualified, I was:

    • A Math Minor (the subject I taught)
    • An MBA
    • In the workforce for about 10 years, many of which were in positions where I used my subject to make a living
    • Successfully teaching in a difficult environment with occasional support from my Assistant Principals (some of the 8 AP's I had in 3.5 years were good but others were not)

    The teacher training I sat through at night was not related in any meaningful way to teaching or to to mathematics.  In the end, faced with sitting through a yearlong "thesis preparation" class and lots of nonsense work that would have competed directly with the time I needed to plan lessons and grade student work, I left the teacher training program.  I took the credit-by-examination tests for my missing education credits, and I became "Highly qualified".  My students didn't need a teacher who completed this program, but they did need a teacher who was not sitting in some other classroom until 10 at night somewhere.

    The NCLB law has many flaws, and this is one of them.  As a progressive, I have no interest in giving carte blanche to teacher training programs, especially those that are time-consuming but lacking in intellectual rigor.  

    The testing requirements have helped states dumb down the tests to fudge their numbers, and the disaggregation requirements have the perverse effect of rewarding schools with homogeneous populations over those with diverse populations, recent immigrants, students with disabilities.

    I left teaching after 3 1/2 years because each year, my school 'reformed' itself further into a spiral of failure, and most of the teachers (both promising young and dedicated older teachers) I respected had left or were leaving.  We had double periods with alternating days, "advisory" classes with no curriculum for our students, block programming (one size fits all) and mini-schools--all of the buzzwords of "reform".  And while the reforms did result in a lot of staff meetings, they made it harder for me to keep in touch with parents, to talk about math with other math teachers, to mentor new people and to learn from master teachers, and to TEACH.

    Progressives have a lot at stake in the education of low income students but we have to pick our friends carefully.

    •  Your description (0+ / 0-)

      is exactly why we shouldn't give exceptions to "teachers in training".  You also seemed to say that the reforms your school went through were by choice.  You end with a warning to pick our friends carefully.  While some TFA'rs are Progressive, the leaders only want to privatise, and yes, deprofessionalize, teaching.

  •  There's lower-case and there's upper-case (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    I think TFA interns are as highly qualified as many duly-trained-and-credentialed teachers in underserved schools.  There is a dynamic, composed of racism and the marketplace, by which less-qualified teachers have been hired and retained by underserved schools.  TFA interns are better teachers than a lot of them.

    Having said that, TFA interns are not Highly Qualified under the prevailing definition, so any effort to label them as such as deceptive and should be defeated.  What we really need is a complete rethinking of what Highly Qualified means, to bring it closer to highly-qualified in the colloquial sense of the word: someone who's well-suited to the job.

    "George Washington said I was beautiful"--Sarah Palin on Barbara Bush, as imagined by Mark Sumner

    by Rich in PA on Mon Dec 20, 2010 at 06:22:03 AM PST

  •  Highly qualified status (0+ / 0-)

    was used in the past few years ,to my knowledge, to fire teachers who didn't fit the exact definition.  This could happen to  jr high teachers who had general, K-8 certificates, but not subject endorsements.  How would you feel if you had just lost your job, but now find that an exception for a select group is quietly being attempted?

    I also get tired of the general trashing of ED programs, mostly by people who haven't taught youngers students or in public schools.  Classroom management skills, a knowledge of child development, PR, and copier repair are essential skills. Only those who haven't taught would dismiss them so easily.

  •  The British teacher (0+ / 0-)

    training system has received favorable comments.

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