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DOE hoping for No Child break

Siu-Runyan Comment: There is a shortage of teachers in Hawai'i. So, the State Dept. of Education is asking for "...an exception to the federal deadline under No Child Left Behind requiring all states to have 100 percent highly qualified teachers in classrooms by the end of the year." Considering the high cost of living in Hawai'i, and the low pay of teachers, DOE might find it difficult to comply. Teachers from the mainland often feel "rock" bound.

By Beverly Creamer


Hawai'i defines a “highly qualified teacher” as one who holds at least a bachelor’s degree and in each core academic subject taught:

• holds a Hawai'i license for teaching;

• has completed a state-approved teacher education program; or

• has completed an undergraduate major, a graduate degree, coursework equivalent to an undergraduate major, or advanced certification or credential.
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Hawai'i state education officials are expecting the U.S. Department of Education to grant Hawai'i an exception to the federal deadline under No Child Left Behind requiring all states to have 100 percent highly qualified teachers in classrooms by the end of the year.

"It would be very hard for them not to (grant an exception)," said Gerald Okamoto, assistant superintendent for the Hawai'i State Department of Education's Office of Human Resources.

"We're submitting evidence of the efforts we're undergoing to meet the 100 percent, but we know we'll fall short," he said. "But every state is faced with this, not just Hawai'i. And we're geographically isolated."

Okamoto expects at least 300 more teachers to be certified as highly qualified by the year-end deadline, bringing the total up to 89 percent. It now stands at 86 percent.

The state has made strides since 2002-03, when the number of highly qualified teachers was at 76 percent.

The No Child Left Behind Act calls for all core academic subjects, such as math, science and English, to be taught by highly qualified teachers. That means their state license must certify them for the specific subjects they teach, or they must have completed certain university coursework or state-approved training.

Adele Chong of the DOE budget office said a team from the U.S. DOE will make a monitoring visit next month to review Hawai'i efforts to increase its number of highly qualified teachers. That's when the state will be able to make its case for an exception to the deadline.

"They'll determine if we're making a good faith effort or if we should be penalized," Chong said.

At this point in time, there's no way to say what a sanction would be, when it would be imposed or what the terms would be, Chong said.

Additionally, the state is required to have highly qualified paraprofessionals. Currently, 80 percent are rated as highly qualified, up from 40 percent in 2003-04.

Okamoto said there are initiatives under way to increase the number of highly qualified teachers in classrooms, ranging from aggressive recruitment for teachers in remote and hard-to-fill areas to an initiative with the Hawai'i State Teachers Association that allows the State Teachers Standards Board to look at teacher portfolios, experience and education to check for equivalences tied to the highly qualified rating.

The standards board recently agreed to accept a new teacher's SAT scores for reading and math to cut down the number of tests he or she must take in applying for licensure.

"We've been looking at different types of alternatives to try to get people qualified," Okamoto said. "At the same time we're not willing to lower our standards."

The standards board is also pursuing reciprocity agreements with other states, and recently accepted teacher licensures from the mid-Atlantic region.

Not all states have the same standards Hawai'i does, said Okamoto. "Some states don't test people and they call them highly qualified," he said.

Additionally, many teachers hired on an emergency basis are in the process of obtaining teacher certification.

Reach Beverly Creamer at bcreamer@honoluluadvertiser.com.

— Beverly Creamer
Honolulu Advertiser


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