It's Time For a Reality Check on Teacher Quality
The current "Highly Qualified Teacher" (HQT) amendment to the federal Appropriations Bill allows teachers-in-training to be designated as "highly qualified." Problem is, as soon as you start calling everybody highly qualified, you lose the ability to tell which students are actually being served by quality, experienced teachers and which students are being systematically denied access to the most important, in-classroom resources they need.
In a column for the Huffington Post, John Affeldt, Managing Attorney at Public Advocates, deftly explains what the HQT amendment does, what faulty logic and research supports it and why we need a reality check on how this misleading label has allowed teachers-in-training to be concentrated in struggling schools to the detriment of our nation's low-income students and students of color.
For Affeldt, the central issue of the HQT debate is about creating a baseline standard in the profession:
"Advocates of the HQT amendment sometimes use a diversionary tactic: they argue that measuring teacher effectiveness should replace the effort to ensure an entry-level standard of quality for all beginning teachers. We need both.
How can we possibly discern teachers' effectiveness until they have taught for a few years? We can't. It is critical that federal policy also maintain a baseline entry standard. We do not, as a society, allow anyone to drive without passing a driver's test and only revoke the privilege once someone does harm on the roadways. Similarly, we should not let anyone teach our children without first acquiring a baseline level of training and competence in the classroom. The theory that we can remove teachers from the classroom once they have proven themselves ineffective two or three years down the road ignores the immediate damage done to students."
Low-income students and students of color are the ones who are disproportionately saddled with new teachers and teachers-in-training. But by not calling teachers-in-training what they are, policymakers don't have to address the disparity in access to fully trained teachers. The amendment has become "a lawful farce that spawns inequity."
Read Affeldt's full column here.