Hawaii still behind in qualified teachers
No state has met a federal deadline for having highly qualified teachers in every public school classroom.
DESPITE progress in placing more skilled teachers in public school classrooms, Hawaii begins a new school still short of a federal mandate that all educators be "highly qualified" in every subject they teach.
The state has lots of company.
The U.S. Department of Education reports that not a single state met the May 31 deadline for qualified teachers as required by the No Child Left Behind Act. As a result, the federal government is threatening to yank funds from some states -- Hawaii isn't among them -- that aren't making substantial improvement.
Withholding aid is the government's chief weapon in motivating states to comply with the formidable requirements of President Bush's initiative to have all of the nation's public school students proficient in English and math by the year 2014.
Holding back federal dollars is an effective stick. What's missing, however, is a carrot; there are no funding incentives for school districts that do well in education to expand productive programs, come up with new ones or hire more good teachers.
Education Secretary Margaret Spellings, who has the task of wielding the stick, has come under increasing pressure to get tougher with states, particularly from conservative groups that favor vouchers for students to enroll in private schools at taxpayer expense.
Political considerations also had much to do with Spelling's downplaying a report from a department division that showed achievement among public school students was comparable, if not better, than among their peers in private schools. The report's findings contradicted a key administration argument for vouchers, noting that the trait shared by successful students in both public and private schools was a supportive, stable family.
Parents do play an important role as Jarrett Middle School administrators have found. Part of that school's progress in reaching its goals can be attributed to its drive to involve parents and the community.
But motivated teachers are most important for student achievement and though the state has reached the 86 percent mark for "highly qualified" educators and has avoided federal sanctions, it must continue advancement toward that target.
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