Qualification letters may alarm parents

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, July 1, 2003

If letters were to go out today informing parents that teachers did not meet the state standard of

being &uot;highly qualified&uot; as required by the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001, some 40 to 48 percent of Shelby County teachers would have such letters sent out about them.

That is the estimate given by Evelyn Blake, assistant superintendent of personnel for Shelby County Schools.

However, according to Blake, at present there is some unfairness in a pending federal mandate with regard to Alabama.

And she said she feels some parents may be unduly alarmed.

According to Blake, the state Board of Education

only recently adopted a model for the &uot;highly qualified teacher&uot;

on the same day it adopted a resolution that no parental notification of teachers not yet meeting the state’s definition shall be sent until the board authorizes it.

The state board of education contends Alabama teachers have been unfairly denied the options to become highly qualified that are afforded teachers in other states since Alabama cannot offer specific subject-matter testing due to a long-standing federal court order and a uniform state standard of education will not be ready until Nov. 1.

According to the resolution adopted by the state board,

Dr. Ed Richardson, state superintendent of education, and his staff should also continue to negotiate with the U.S. Department of Education on a settlement to the issue so notices to parents will not be necessary during the 2003-2004 school year.

&uot;I think parents do have the right to know if a teacher is qualified,&uot; said Blake. But echoing the state board, she said there

is some unique unfairness with regard to Alabama.

Blake said that in more than 30 other states, teachers can be tested in the subject area.

&uot;Since we don’t have such a test, we have to look further into our credentials,&uot; she said.

Blake said some good teachers may lack a math or English course. And she stressed that teachers have not yet had time to address the new state model.

Blake said of letters sent out under such circumstances, &uot;I think it might unduly alarm parents when a teacher is certified in Alabama and doing a good job in the classroom.&uot;

However, she said, &uot;We will do what we are directed to do.&uot;

According to the state department of education, the No Child Left Behind Act is the cornerstone of the U.S. Government’s

position on public education in America and includes provision that each student be taught by a highly qualified teacher by the end of the 2003 school year.

According to the act, U.S. Department of Education requires that beginning in the fall of 2003 and each year until 2005-06, an annual update is to be calculated for teachers not yet meeting the state’s definition of highly qualified teacher.

In addition parents of students being taught by teachers not yet meeting the state’s definition are to receive notification from the school