A qualified teacher in every classroom

A June 22 Oregonian story reported that a significant number of Oregon middle school teachers will probably not meet the definition of “highly qualified,” as outlined in the federal No Child Left Behind act. To meet this requirement teachers must have taken significant coursework, or passed a standardized exam, in their teaching area.

The failure to put qualified teachers in classrooms in Oregon and other states is at least partially attributable to the teacher licensure process. Oregon’s state teacher certification process places many obstacles between someone interested in teaching and a classroom. For example, former governor John Kitzhaber, M.D. would find it difficult to teach either government or biology/anatomy in public schools, despite extensive experience in both areas.

Tear Down This Wall, a 2001 report by the Progressive Policy Institute, outlined an approach to increasing the supply of highly qualified teachers that would require them to have a college degree, and pass a subject area test and a background check. The report states such a change, “would move teacher certification past what is essentially a guild system and toward a meaningful professional model.”

It is absurd that schools are essentially closed to many professionals who have real-world, practical experience in their fields. A policy that allows individuals to prove their merits based on demonstrated skills, not paper qualifications, could open the teaching pool to many more skilled applicants and help schools provide the best qualified teachers possible.

Nick Weller is an education policy analyst at Cascade Policy Institute, a Portland, Oregon based think tank.

© 2006, Cascade Policy Institute. All rights reserved. Permission to reprint in whole or in part is hereby granted, provided the author and Cascade Policy Institute are cited. Contact Cascade at (503) 242-0900 to arrange print or broadcast interviews on this topic. For more topics visit the QuickPoint! archive.

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