State still needs more competent teachers
Not a single state has met a federal deadline requiring skilled teachers in every core class.
HAWAII gets an "A" for effort, dodging sanctions for the time being as the federal government moves toward withholding funds from states that have not made substantial progress on placing capable teachers in classrooms.
The U.S. Department of Education reported last week that no state had met a No Child Left Behind deadline to have a "highly qualified" teacher in every core class by the end of the current school year.
Though only nine states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico will face the onerous penalty of losing federal aid, every state will have to explain how it plans to meet the standard by next year.
Hawaii -- which received $13.5 million in federal funds -- is among 29 states that have made enough improvements to stave off the penalty, raising its number of qualified teachers from 76 percent three years ago to 86 per- cent more recently. Still, there is room for improvement.
Teachers of all qualification levels have remained in short supply in the islands, particularly in rural schools or in areas where the student population is largely impoverished. For that reason, the Board of Education has approved a contract with Teach for America, a national program that will bring up to 110 top college graduates to fill teaching positions in Oahu's disadvantaged Leeward district over the next four years.
Although they won't raise the qualified numbers, the recent graduates will reduce vacancies that plague schools considered less attractive workplaces.
NCLB defines "highly qualified" as teachers with bachelor's degrees, a state license and demonstrated competency in every subject they teach, including basic subjects like math.
Teach for America recruits might not have teaching degrees, but the program has drawn droves of socially conscious graduates from elite colleges, such as Harvard and Yale. Though they might not be versed in pedagogy, the program's teachers often are more effective than their traditionally trained colleagues. In addition, about 63 percent stay in the profession, many at the schools where they first began teaching.
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