When Is “Highly Qualified” Not “Highly Qualified”?

On December 22, 2010, President Barack Obama signed legislation that allows states to classify teaching interns as “highly qualified” teachers and regularly assign them to schools with mostly poor, minority students.

The legislation nullifies a Sept. 27 decision by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which ruled that California illegally classified thousands of teachers in training as “highly qualified” in violation of the federal No Child Left Behind Act.

Under that law, all students are supposed to be taught by “highly qualified” teachers who have earned state teaching credentials, but a 2004 Bush administration policy allowed states to give that status to interns working toward certification.

A California lawsuit claims that more than 10,000 interns were teaching in California public schools in 2007. About 62 percent of interns taught in the poorest half of California schools, and more than half were assigned to schools with at least 90 percent students of color.  The number of teaching interns has dropped to about 8,000 because state budget cuts have led to fewer teaching positions and fewer people are entering the teacher credentialing programs.

Nationwide, more than 100,000 intern teachers are classified as “highly qualified,” according to the lawsuit.

A number of educational reformers, including yours truly, have questioned how the nation was going to replace teachers who are leaving the field more quickly than colleges are preparing them.  Here is one of the answers; instead of raising the requirements we are lowering the standards. Obviously it makes sense to someone.