NCLB: Teachers challenge new rules
'It's a matter of principle,' says one of two veterans who refuse to take test.
By Lisa Michals
Two Rosewood Elementary School teachers say they plan to defy the federal No Child Left Behind law.
As a result, they won’t be allowed to continue teaching fourth grade next school year.
The new law, passed in 2001, requires all teachers to be “highly qualified” by the 2006-07 school year. That means they must have at least a bachelor’s degree, meet state certification requirements and demonstrate competency in the subject they teach from a mix-and-match menu of such options as tests or peer evaluations.
Allyson Stasney has taught fourth grade at Rosewood for nearly 31 years, but next year she will no longer be qualified to teach it because of the changes to the teacher quality requirements.
Caroline Carson faces the same fate after teaching fourth grade at Rosewood for eight years.
They could take a test or undergo semester-long classroom observations to meet the requirements.
But they don’t see why they should. So they refuse to jump through the new teacher-quality hoops.
“We’re not doing it. It’s a matter of principle,” Stasney said.
When new laws are passed, lawyers don’t have to retake the bar exam, Carson said, and when new medicines hit the market, doctors don’t have to retake medical exams.
If teachers don’t meet the new requirements, they could be out of a job unless they show a good-faith effort to meet them.
Carson’s and Stasney’s response to the new requirements is unusual, said Richland 1 officials and Janice Poda, a S.C. Department of Education deputy superintendent.Beryl Brooks-Goines, Richland 1 director of certified employment, isn’t surprised, though.
“I think it’s a normal reaction,” she said. “Teachers feel, ‘I’ve been doing this all these years. Why do I have to do something additional?’”
In January 2005, 11,500 of South Carolina’s 46,000 teachers didn’t meet the looming requirements. Poda could not provide more recent statistics but said the gap has closed.
South Carolina received high marks from the U.S. Department of Education in June for its plan to ensure the new teacher-quality requirements.
“Realistically, it’s never going to be 100 percent, and the best we can do is to work toward 100 percent,” Poda said.
The biggest hurdles will be in rural areas, she said. The law requires teachers to prove they are competent to teach individual subjects. In rural schools, teachers often teach multiple subjects because a full-time teacher isn’t needed to just teach, for example, physics.
“If you are in a rural area and you only need somebody to teach physics for two periods a day, they’re not going to take a job for just two periods a day — they want a full-time job,” Poda said.
In Stasney’s and Carson’s case, they may teach a lower grade level next year, since they meet the requirements to teach kindergarten through third grade.
Their principal at Rosewood, Ted Wachter, supports them.
“They certainly have a right to their decision. Think if every teacher in South Carolina took their position. That would be a grand and powerful force.”
Wachter noted the new requirements question more than whether teachers are highly qualified for their jobs.
“I think it’s trying to put the focus of school failure on the teacher,” Wachter said.
So rather than take a test or be evaluated by other teachers, Stasney prefers to focus on what she has done the past 31 years: teach fourth grade.
“If it doesn’t work out, then that’s my calling that it’s time to close the door.”
Reach Michals at (803) 771-8532 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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