Hawaii unlikely to meet deadline for qualified teachers
Despite recent gains, Hawaii has little hope of meeting a federal requirement that all teachers be highly qualified in the subjects they teach by a national deadline this summer, a top school official said yesterday.
"It'd be awfully hard for us to make 100 percent," said Gerald Okamoto, the assistant superintendent for human resources.
Okamoto presented a report to a Board of Education committee yesterday showing that currently 86 percent of Hawaii's teachers are highly qualified in their subjects, a key plank of the Bush administration's No Child Left Behind law.
"Highly qualified" means they have a college degree in their area of instruction or meet other requirements.
In the 2002-03 school year, 76 percent of teachers met the criteria.
Meanwhile, the percentage of paraprofessionals, or teacher's aides, who have NCLB-required associate degrees or other two-year degrees has grown from just 40 percent in 2003-04 to 80 percent this year, Okamoto said.
He attributed the increases to Department of Education efforts to provide teachers and paraprofessionals with the necessary training and other assistance to raise their qualifications.
However, NCLB requires that states receiving a certain class of federal funds meet the 100 percent requirement or risk losing those funds. Hawaii's share amounted to $13.5 million this year.
But states can dodge sanctions if they demonstrate a plan for raising teacher quality.
The Hawaii DOE hopes its recent track record will sway federal authorities, Okamoto said.
Those authorities have been steadily granting states more and more leeway as national criticism of the law's strict requirements has flared.
The teacher qualifications issue provides a glimpse at how difficult it will be for states to implement other rigid components of the law, the best example of which is the requirement that 100 percent of students reach "proficiency" in individual subjects like math and reading by the year 2014.
That requirement has been dismissed by leading education experts as naive and unrealistic.
Likewise, school districts across the country are having trouble finding teachers, much less the highly qualified.
"It's everywhere, not just in Hawaii," said Okamoto. "But our feeling is that we're doing as good or better than other school districts in addressing the issue."