According to an article in The New York Times, “Despite a Doctorate and Top Students, Unqualified to Teach” (subscription required), experienced teachers are leaving the profession because of No Child Left Behind requirements. Under California law, a teacher must successfully complete a certification program to fulfill the NCLB mandate that there be a â€œhighly qualifiedâ€? instructor in every classroom. The problem: many experienced teachers consider the program “an expensive, time-consuming indignity,” that lasts two years, costs around $15,000, is geared to beginners, and teaches lesson planning and classroom control.
The New York Times highlighted the plight of one teacher:
Jefferds Huyck stood in a corner of the gymnasium, comfortable in being inconspicuous, as the annual awards ceremony began one Friday last May at Pacific Collegiate School in Santa Cruz, Calif. He listened as the principal named 16 of Mr. Huyckâ€™s students who had earned honors in a nationwide Latin exam, and he applauded as those protÃ©gÃ©s gathered near center court to receive their certificates. Then the principal, Andrew Goldenkranz, said, â€œAnd hereâ€™s their teacher.â€? Hundreds of students and parents and colleagues rose unbidden in a standing ovation. In that gesture, they were both celebrating and protesting.
As virtually everyone in the audience knew, Mr. Huyck would be leaving Pacific Collegiate, a charter school, after commencement. Despite his doctorate in classics from Harvard, despite his 22 years teaching in high school and college, despite the classroom successes he had so demonstrably achieved with his Latin students in Santa Cruz, he was not considered â€œhighly qualifiedâ€? by California education officials under their interpretation of the federal No Child Left Behind law.
With the quality of teacher training being widely assailed as undemanding, most recently in a report last month by the Education Schools Project, a nonpartisan group, Pacific Collegiate in 2005 had what certainly looked like the solution. Out of a faculty of 29, 12 already had or were nearing doctoral degrees, primarily related to the subjects they taught.
And if the performance of the school mattered for anything, which unfortunately it does not in the credentialing issue, then Pacific Collegiate could show results. Admitting its 400 students in Grades 7 through 12 by lottery rather than by admissions exam, it recorded an average of 1,982 out of a possible 2,400 on the three-part SAT and sent graduates to Yale, Princeton, Stanford, Swarthmore and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, among other elite universities.
Yet when Mr. Goldenkranz became principal in September 2005, he was informed by the Santa Cruz County Office of Education that, as he recalled in a recent interview, â€œin no uncertain terms, we had to develop a path to compliance with N.C.L.B.â€? Once the teachers were certified, Pacific Collegiate itself would have to pay $6,000 per teacher to the state for their enrollment in a program devised to improve retention of new faculty members.