A calling ...

"We are called to be architects of the future, not its victims."

"Make the world work for 100% of humanity in the shortest possible time through spontaneous cooperation without ecological offense or the disadvantage of anyone."

- Buckminster Fuller

Saturday, March 24, 2012

"Highly Quailfied" does not mean better

Teacher quality is a serious matter, and the requirement for highly qualified teachers under NCLB, on the surface, seems like a good idea. Here's the problem: where is the research indicating that a "highly qualified" teacher causes greater increases in student performance than a so-called "non-highly qualified" teacher? Miller and Davison respond to the contrary:

"Not necessarily. What is called for is a determination of those attributes that do enhance student performance. That is, what are the factors that contribute to teacher quality?" (Miller, K. & Davidson, D. , 2006).

Like everything  else with NCLB, a critical factor in education, in this case, teacher quality,  is over-simplified. In elementary school, for example, general education teachers typically teach reading, math, social studies, and science. How many of them have degrees in each of these fields? For the special education teacher, required to support students in more than one subject area, the same principle applies: teachers are often tasked with teaching  children in areas for which they have no specialized degree. While a certain minimum level of content knowledge is probably necessary, i.e., somebody who does not know his multiplication facts should not be teaching multiplication,  and understanding of how students learn, and an ability to implement  effective teaching practices, and an ability to collaborate with other teachers are all essential factors in effective teaching. NCLB "highly qualified" mandates can block candidates who know how to teach and are great collaborators, but who lack the coursework; NCLB can also confer hiring advantages to candidates who have degrees but lack teaching ability.

Having earned a teaching license through a program that had no student teaching requirement, my own "highly qualified" status has had little bearing on how effective I have been in the classroom. Nor has my top 10% performance on the Praxis for Content Knowledge. My decision to attend MU to seek a Master of Education degree was based on a "come to Jesus moment" when I realized that  I needed to improve my knowledge of effective teaching practice and the kinds of experiences that could only come through student teaching. As my year of PDS insanity comes to a close, my classroom skills and knowledge of effective teaching practice are light years ahead of where they were last summer.  Teaching is way more complex than Washington bureaucrats sitting behind a desk can possibly fathom. Learning how to teach is a continuous process that involves commitment (how can that be measured?), years of practice and reflection, and a willingness to take intelligent risks. None of these qualities can be adequately measured by a simple test.

Miller, K. W., & Davison, D. M. (2006). What Makes a Secondary School Science and/or Mathematics Teacher "Highly Qualified?". Science Educator15(1), 56-59