86 percent of Hawaii teachers 'highly qualified,' state says
WASHINGTON » Under federal pressure, most states are close to getting teachers who are rated highly qualified in front of every math, history, language and other core class by the end of the school year. Or so they say.
Thirty-three states claim 90 percent to 99 percent of their main classes have teachers who are highly qualified. That means, based on the No Child Left Behind law, that those teachers have a bachelor's degree, a state license and proven competency in every subject they teach.
Most of the other states put their numbers a tier below -- 70 percent to 89 percent -- and a few are way behind, according to a review of new state data by the Associated Press.
The accuracy of those accounts is now under review by the Education Department, which is checking not just total numbers but also the figures within poor and struggling schools.
The Associated Press survey reports Hawaii at 74 percent, tied with California and fifth from the bottom of the 50 states and the District of Columbia.
However, new figures released last month by the state Department of Education shows 86 percent of teachers meet Hawaii's "highly qualified" standard.
President Bush and Congress have promised parents that 100 percent of core classes will have highly qualified teachers by the end of the school year.
With few states, if any, expected to reach full compliance on time, the department plans to allow an extra year to states that have shown a good-faith effort. Others could lose millions of dollars in aid if federal officials don't see enough progress.
Hawaii's share of federal funds amounted to $13.5 million last year.
At a Board of Education meeting last month, Gerald Okamoto, assistant superintendent for human resources, said the department hopes that the progress the state has made from last year to this year will show the federal government they are making progress in raising teacher quality.
According to the Associated Press figures, Hawaii is above the national average in having highly qualified teachers on the elementary school level. However, it falls behind in both poorer and wealthier high schools, with only 64 percent of teachers in less-affluent schools meeting standards and 68 percent in wealthier schools.
Department of Education spokesman Greg Knudsen said there is a nationwide teacher shortage that makes it difficult just to find teachers, let alone "highly qualified" teachers.
In addition, teachers in smaller schools, many in rural areas, have to teach more than one subject. So a math teacher who meets standards may also have to teach another class that is not in his or her field of expertise.