Our Opinion: Teacher standards

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

School districts across the country have until July for 100 percent of their teachers to be highly qualified teachers, a designation that means that they are fully certified to teach the classes they teach.

The federal No child Left Behind Act requires that 100 percent of classes must be taught by highly qualified teachers. This is primarily an issue at middle schools and high schools, which require more specialized instruction than at the elementary school.

John Chalstrom, superintendent of the Cherokee School District, says Iowa has done a better job than others as far as having teachers all certified in the disciplines they teach. The only areas that there might be a bit of a problem in Iowa are the areas of pull-out programs for special education and for alternative high schools.

Often special education students are taught math, for example, by a special education teacher who is not certified in math. Chalstrom advocates that, as much as possible, teaching special education students should be incorporated into the regular education program, bearing in mind that there are some limitations based on the abilities of the students.

State law requires that an alternative high school setting be provided for students who for some reason cannot be in a regular class setting. The only economically practical way to provide an alternative high school is to have one teacher teach from multi-discipline curriculum materials specially designed to be learned primarily at the student's individual initiative and rate.

In this setting the instructor is more responsible for overseeing a process than creating lesson plans. It can be assumed that no alternative high school teacher would be certified in all the disciplines taught in the alternative high school.

So far, the state legislature has not addressed the problems involved in teaching alternative high schools in regards to the goals of the highly qualified teachers act. The federal legislation is well intentioned and, for the most part, Iowa schools are in compliance.

Common sense should govern special circumstances that make adjustments necessary.