Requirements outlined for Maryland teachers

They must meet deadline for `highly qualified' status

October 29, 2003|By Laura Loh | Laura Loh,SUN STAFF

The state Board of Education outlined yesterday what teachers must do to comply with a 2006 federal deadline to prove themselves "highly qualified" -- an issue that has created anxiety among educators worried they will be forced to go back to college or take tests to demonstrate their competency.

Under the criteria approved by the school board yesterday, some teachers will have to complete more coursework or take state exams in the subject they teach. But others will be able to satisfy the federal requirement by adding up the education and experience they have accumulated.

The requirement of the No Child Left Behind Act applies to teachers who teach in "core academic subjects," which include reading, math, science, history, foreign language and art, but not physical or vocational education. Teachers who do not comply with the federal law could lose their jobs.

Maryland school officials estimate that 65 percent of the 44,000 teachers of the core subjects have fulfilled requirements to become "highly qualified." Yesterday's board action means thousands of others will receive that designation through their years of classroom experience and other accomplishments.

Complying with the federal law will be harder for others, including about 5,000 teachers in core academic subjects who are conditionally certified by the state. That is an emergency approval sought by some school systems, particularly Baltimore and Prince George's County.

Overall, state school officials said, the new criteria give most teachers a realistic chance of earning the new designation but establish a high standard of teacher quality.

"That's been a very tough balance to maintain," said state Assistant Schools Superintendent Ronald Peiffer.

The criteria, which were developed under the guidance of federal education officials, are different for two groups of teachers -- those hired before 1987, when Maryland began requiring teachers to take a state test to become certified, and those hired after that year.

To be deemed "highly qualified," a teacher hired since 1987 must hold at least a bachelor's degree, have a state teaching certificate, and either pass a state test in the subject taught or complete advanced coursework or have majored in the subject in college.

For teachers who have taught more than 16 years, the state teachers union fought to get different requirements.

Veteran teachers "have been here for many years, and to say that now a test is going to determine whether [they] are highly qualified is an insult," said Clara B. Floyd, vice president of the Maryland State Teachers Association. "We worked very hard with [the State Department of Education] to come up with an alternative to the testing."

Teachers who were hired before 1987 do not necessarily have to pass a state test or complete the advanced coursework or college major.

Instead, they can add up their achievements using an evaluation system called HOUSSE, or Highly Objective Uniform State Standard of Evaluation.

To be deemed highly qualified, they must have 100 points under HOUSSE, which assigns points to different experiences.

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