California Bungled Teaching Changes
By Juliet Williams
SACRAMENTO, Calif. - A judge on Wednesday ruled that the state erred when it created a new classification for thousands of teachers working on emergency credentials in order to meet a provision of the No Child Left Behind Act.
California officials said the decision would not jeopardize the state's status under the federal law, which requires that all core classes such as English, math and science be taught by teachers who are "highly qualified" by the end of this school year. Schools that fail to meet the standard face sanctions, including losing federal funding.
But U.S. Education Secretary
Margaret Spellings said last week that states won't be punished immediately if they fail to make the deadline, as long as they show they are making a serious effort.
In the lawsuit, Californians for Justice, an advocacy group for poor and minority students, alleged that the state's Commission on Teacher Credentialing created a new internship credential in 2003 so certain teachers working with only emergency credentials could be reclassified and considered "highly qualified."
In his ruling, San Francisco Superior Court Judge James L. Warren did not address the teachers' qualifications but said the commission skirted a state law that requires new rules to be subjected to public review.
Since the suit was filed in August, the credentialing commission has been working to meet the regulatory requirement. It has scheduled public hearings in December on the two-year teaching permits, commission attorney Mary Armstrong said.
The commission created the new internship category in 2003 and has since issued 4,000 permits under it. Some teachers have since earned their full credentials. Today, between 1,700 and 2,000 teachers are still working under the internship credentials, Armstrong said.
Wednesday's ruling sets an important precedent as states scramble to get teachers credentials in time, said Ross Weiner, policy director for The Education Trust, a national group that advocates for poor and minority students.
"The law is clear that teachers on emergency or waiver credentials cannot be considered highly qualified under (the No Child Left Behind law)," he said. "California tried to ignore that part of the law, effectively denying students and families their rights under federal law.
The state believes the interns are highly qualified, said Penni Hansen, a professional development consultant for the California
Department of Education. They are required to have a bachelor's degree, pass the state's basic skills test for teachers and demonstrate proficiency in the subject they are teaching while they work toward attaining the credits for an education degree.
Under the No Child Left Behind Act, teachers with emergency or temporary permits are not to be considered highly qualified unless they are enrolled in certain internship programs. But standards vary from state to state, and the federal law has been criticized for failing to specify the definition of "highly qualifie
Juliet Williams, Associated Press
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