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Most Alabama Schools Will Ignore Federal Law

Ohanian Comment: I don't know if this is an atrocity or an accomplishment. The letters saying teachers aren't qualified are evil. Hiding true lack of qualification is also evil.

I wish teacher qualification criteria included such things as

  • sense of humor

  • ability to nurture

  • standing up for the underdog


  • and so on and so on.

    As complex and convoluted as the Alabama compromise might be, I say 3 cheers for any refusal to comply with federal doctring.

    Parents Won't Get tell-All Letter on Teacher Skills

    MONTGOMERY - Most Alabama school systems this week will ignore federal law. They won't notify you if your child's teacher is less than highly qualified

    But don't get angry and blame them. State school officials have told districts not to send letters of notification to parents.

    The state has permission from federal education officials not to send out the letters - at least not now.

    This week marks the fourth week of classes for most of Alabama's 130 school districts. The federal No Child Left Behind Act mandates that schools by the fourth week notify parents of children whose teachers have not been deemed highly qualified.

    But for the second consecutive year, state school leaders have persuaded federal officials not to enforce the requirement as the state wrestles to complete an agreement that would allow Alabama to restart mandatory testing for new teachers, possibly as soon as early 2006.

    "We've been in negotiations with the (U.S.) Department of Education on this, and so far they have allowed us to not send out the letters to parents," said state schools Superintendent Joe Morton. "Compared to last year, I think we've made a lot of progress toward being able to comply with the law, but we need more time to round out the process."

    Two weeks ago, lawyers for the state announced that negotiations with plaintiffs in a teacher-testing case stretching back two decades had resulted in a tentative settlement agreement. The deal would allow the state to resume competency testing for new teachers.

    That move is critical to the state's ability to comply with the new federal law that holds schools accountable for effectively teaching all students and requires that all students have highly qualified teachers in core subjects by the 2005-06 school year.

    The highly qualified requirement proved to be particularly difficult for Alabama with its ban on teacher testing. Most states test their teachers and use the results to comply with the law requiring highly qualified teachers.

    The Alabama Board of Education refused last year to allow systems to send out notification letters. Board members objected to identifying teachers as not highly qualified when many of them had not been given a chance to obtain the status by going back to school to earn additional credits, and the state could not test teachers voluntarily.

    After the board reached that decision, Morton began talks with federal officials, who agreed to give the state time to deal with the teacher-testing issue.

    Progress was made, and the virtual prohibition against any teacher testing began to break down last fall. That's when the state struck a deal with the Education Testing Service of Princeton, N.J., to make one of its teacher exams available for veteran Alabama teachers to take on a voluntary basis. Those who passed would be deemed highly qualified.

    Under that agreement, the state is not allowed to know how many teachers have taken the exam, but Morton believes many have taken and passed it. For that reason, Morton believes the number of teachers who would now be classified as highly qualified has likely increased from the 34 percent the U.S. Department of Education identified last year.

    Who is highly qualified?:

    Under the federal law, a highly qualified teacher is basically one whose college training is specifically in the subject he or she teaches or who can pass a tough test on the subject.

    The state school board is likely to give its approval to the settlement in the teacher-testing case when it meets Thursday. It's likely that approval among plaintiffs in the case, including the Alabama State University board of trustees and individual teachers around the state, will take a little longer.

    Once all parties in the testing case sign off on the new agreement, Morton said, federal officials may insist the letters go out.

    "I don't anticipate any letters going out between now and at least Oct. 15," he said. "After that, we'll have to see where we are."

    — Charles J. Dean
    Birmingham News
    http://www.al.com/news/birminghamnews/index.ssf?/base/news/1094548589169290.xml


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