Hawaii cited as failing to create teacher plans
WASHINGTON >> Hawaii is one of four states listed as failing to come up with adequate plans for putting "highly qualified" teachers in public schools, according to a federal review released today.
The law defines "highly qualified" teachers as those who have a bachelor's degree, a state license and proven competency in every subject they teach. It is often regarded as a minimum qualification, because it requires teachers to know what they teach.
Greg Knudsen, spokesman for Hawaii's Department of Education said state officials have not yet seen the report, but he noted that federal officials are not satisfied with the state's explanation regarding teacher quality.
"We will see what questions they have to meet their concerns," Knudsen said.
But, he added, "It shouldn't be mistaken by the public that Hawaii's teachers are not qualified. There's a certain definition that needs to be met on the federal reporting. We need to do a thorough job on how we report to them."
Under the No Child Left Behind law, states were supposed to have highly qualified teachers in every core academic class by the end of the last school year. None made it, so the federal Education Department demanded new state plans. Today's report said most states meet only some criteria in the required new plans.
The plans were to include details on how states would improve their teaching corps and ensure fairness for poor and minority children.
Most of the states -- 37 of them, plus the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico -- met only some of the criteria required in the new plans. Four states failed altogether: Hawaii, Missouri, Utah and Wisconsin. They must submit new plans and undergo monthly auditing of their teacher quality data, the federal department says.
Still, U.S. Education Secretary Margaret Spelling was encouraged. Most states got credit for showing effort but were faulted for failing to provide all the answers the U.S. department had sought.
"Many states took this very seriously, recognizing that good teachers make all the difference in whether or not our children succeed in their studies," she said.
Meanwhile, for parents and students, more patience will be required. The new goal is 100 percent compliance by the end of the 2006-07 school year, but some states may be years away.
Knudsen said most Hawaii teachers meet the federal requirements already.
"Out of the entire teaching force, according to the No Child Left Behind law, there is 86 percent that are deemed highly qualified. Across the nation, the goal was 100 percent. In that regard, we're not far off as several other states with respect to the quantity of highly qualified teachers."
Schools in rural areas have some teachers who double up in duties. A teacher might teach in math and teach science, but science may not be the teacher's credentialed-area of instruction, Knudsen said.
Meeting the federal criteria while attempting the fill the shortage of teachers compounds the problem.
"It's especially challenging to find qualified teachers when it's in the context of having a national teacher shortage," he said. "In that regard, the state has made a lot of progress in ensuring that the growing number of teachers are recognized as being highly qualified."
Star-Bulletin reporter Rosemarie Bernardo and the Associated Press contributed to this report.