Teachers fail grade
About 22 percent of state instructors lack proper qualifications, a study finds
STORY SUMMARY »
About 2,900 public-school teachers in Hawaii are not considered qualified by the federal government, according to a private consultant.
That means about 22 percent of the state's 13,000 public-school teachers do not qualify under the No Child Left Behind law.
Oregon-based School Synergy has a $250,000 contract with the state Department of Education to identify unqualified teachers and help them improve their credentials.
The No Child Left Behind law defines highly qualified teachers as those with a bachelor's degree, a state license and proven competency in every subject they teach.
Under the NCLB law, states were supposed to have all teachers highly qualified by the 2005-06 school year. None made it, so the federal Education Department demanded new state plans.
School Synergy says Hawaii needs to graduate more teachers from universities, encourage high school students to become teachers, and develop incentives for teachers to become highly qualified.
FULL STORY »
About one in five Hawaii public school teachers are not qualified to teach their assigned subject, but the state is making headway in getting experienced instructors into classrooms, according to a private consultant.
The company, School Synergy, estimates 2,900 isle teachers give lessons in core subjects like math, science, social studies, English and foreign languages without being "highly qualified" under federal guidelines.
The No Child Left Behind Law defines highly qualified teachers as those with a bachelor's degree, a state license and proven competency in every subject they teach.
The state Education Department initially flagged 6,200 unqualified teachers in Hawaii for the 2007-08 school year. But after reviewing teachers' credentials, that number dropped to 2,900, roughly 22 percent of the state's teaching force.
The Education Department ended the previous school year with 2,576 unqualified teachers, excluding elementary teachers.
Data shows that Hawaii has more trouble attracting experienced teachers to higher grades.
In the 2005-06 fiscal year (the last year in which comparisons are available), just 77 percent of secondary classes in the state were taught by highly qualified teachers, ranking Hawaii 47th among states, according to the Education Trust, a national advocacy organization. That is compared with 97 percent of elementary classes taught by highly qualified teachers in Hawaii, the organization said.
"At the secondary level, there clearly is a problem," said Candice Crawford, the trust's senior associate for teacher quality.
Research has shown that highly qualified teachers are more effective in boosting students' scores, especially in math, Crawford said.
School Synergy founder Dawn Billings said her company is analyzing teachers' academic records to determine whether they need extra training in their areas. Officials will meet individually with school principals and teachers through April to help them document their qualifications or devise a plan to bring them up to speed.
The Oregon-based company has a 15-month, $250,000 state contract to help education officials meet federal standards for teachers.
Under the NCLB law, states were supposed to have all teachers fit the highly qualified label by the 2005-06 school year. None made it, so the federal Education Department demanded new state plans.
In August the federal government deemed Hawaii's Education Department a "high-risk" agency for being among four states with inadequate plans for hiring highly qualified teachers. A new plan submitted last May by the state Education Department was approved.
As part of their plans, states need to show that schools in poor neighborhoods are not disproportionately staffed with unqualified teachers compared with campuses serving more affluent areas.
In Hawaii, highly qualified teachers teach about 77 percent of classes at low-poverty secondary schools and 70.5 percent of classes in high-poverty schools. At the elementary level, highly qualified teachers are in 96.2 percent of classes in low-poverty schools and in 90.6 percent of classes in high-poverty schools.
"There is room for improvement, but it is certainly not something that would require us to take drastic measures," said Bob Campbell, director of the Education Department's office of program development and support.
Hawaii gets almost $13 million in federal funds each year to help teachers become highly qualified.
Billings called NCLB's goal of having all teachers highly qualified unrealistic. She noted that officials in Hawaii have to recruit teachers from the mainland and often need to hire people "who may not be our first choice."
Many teachers who have credentials in one area are considered unqualified if they teach another subject at hard-to-recruit schools. And special-education teachers need to be qualified in special education in addition to the subjects they teach, Billings said.
The consultants said Hawaii needs to graduate more teachers from universities, encourage high school students to become teachers, and develop incentives for teachers to become highly qualified.
The Education Department is working with the Hawaii Teacher Standards Board to create a database that will allow them to keep track of licensed teachers, said Sharon Mahoe, the board's executive director.