Bump in road’ for city teachers
By Emily Aronson
PORTSMOUTH - School Board member and former teacher Ann Walker said she’s heard many teachers say "this is my time to get out" of the teaching profession.
Walker told board members earlier this week that she’s concerned dedicated professionals are considering quitting because of the new "highly qualified" teacher requirements under the federal No Child Left Behind law.
By June 30, teachers must obtain certification as highly qualified, which includes a bachelor’s degree, state certification and demonstrated subject area competency.
Walker said it’s the stricter subject area requirement that’s tripping teachers up, with many feeling like the law asks them to re-prove skills they have shown through other certification and testing requirements.
"They are being made to feel like the bottom of the heap," Walker said.
Assistant Superintendent Steve Zadravec said teachers can demonstrate competency in three ways: taking a standardized test, completing a master’s degree in the subject they teach, or compiling an extensive portfolio of their teaching experience.
Unlike previous years, teachers need to be certified in each specific subject they teach rather than a general subject area, Zadravec said. For example, a social studies certification would not be specialized enough to teach a civics or geography class.
Zadravec said he worried the new law makes teachers jump through too many administrative hoops.
"If they have to do too many meaningless processes, we could find teachers leaving the profession," he said.
The district has not had problems staffing highly qualified teachers under current guidelines, with all but three of the 404 classes at city schools taught by highly qualified teachers, according to previously reported data for the last school year.
Superintendent Robert Lister said the administration will do everything it can to make sure teachers retain their highly qualified status under the new guidelines.
While Lister called the new law "a big bump in the road," he said it was a situation "where we need to take lemons and make lemonade." Zadravec added that administration officials will work with teachers during half-days and in-service days to prepare them for the new requirements.
Board member John Lyons, who is also on the state Board of Education, said teachers should not worry about losing their jobs if they do not reach the June 2006 deadline. He echoed comments made by state Education Commissioner Lyonel Tracy that teachers would have time to make their best efforts at reaching the highly qualified status.
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