Government Grades Teachers
The state department of education now says nearly 300 teachers in Columbia public schools don't match the federal government's definition for highly qualified teachers.
"I have national board certificated teachers, I have career teachers, when I go through the list, I can hardly believe so and so is on this list...," said Laffey.
Laffey says if she still taught she'd most likely be on the list too.
"I look for my own name because I'm a lifetime certificated teacher."
Ironically, it's the veteran teachers that aren't considered highly qualified. Here's why:The No Child Left Behind law says a highly qualified teacher must have a bachelor's degree, a certificate to teach a specific subject, and proof of content expertise. But that definition leaves out veterans that received lifetime certification before 1988. Those teachers received general certification not in a specific content area.
Missouri definition is different. It says teachers only needed a certificate to be highly qualified. But not in a content area like no child left behind requires.
"We thought that our definition of highly qualified teachers was pretty good!!" said Stan Johnson MODESE assistant commissioner.
A federal review panel says Missouri left too many things out of its plan. Missouri summed up it's highly qualified teacher plan in five pages. Compare that to Kansas with 20 pages. The federal government liked Kansas' report much better. It got an A; Missouri, once again for its report, got an F.
"That's the word being thrown around a lot, F but that isn't a fair representation of our teachers," says Johnson.
Because of Missouri's F distinction, Missouri faces strict monitoring, a possible loss of money and much more paperwork to file before November 1st. Paperwork required by law.
"Will this process help our teachers be better teachers? And that's where we drew some distinctions. What do you think? I think arguably it's not going to make our staff any more highly qualified than before they filled out the rubric, but again that's the federal law...And as you eluded to earlier, we have to follow federal law," said Johnson.
Because of DESE's disagreement with the feds, local leaders like Mary Laffey now have to decide if their most veteran teachers really measure up.
"I think they'll be offended, because they are highly qualified individuals who are doing exemplary jobs with our students," said Johnson.
Jobs that now need more paperwork to make them highly qualified. Right now DESE says there are more than 16,000 teachers in the state that don't meet qualifications. Once again they'll be scored on a rubric that adds up to 50 points. For instance if you're a teacher with national board certification, you'll get 50 points, and be highly qualified. But if a teacher does not have continued learning in their specific content area that teacher might not get 50 points and thus lose their highly qualified status. That could ultimately lead to a loss of money for districts and the state making it harder to meet No Child Left Behind requirements by 2007.