See Press Release text below. For a formatted PDF version of the release, see http://bit.ly/gTiyjP
December 16, 2010
Contact Wynn Hausser, 415-431-7430, x304, (m)
Parents & Students Blast Senate Deal To Call Trainee Teachers Highly Qualified
SAN FRANCISCO— In a strongly worded letter to Congressional leaders today, a coalition of over half a million parents and students from across the country expressed outrage over new language hidden away in the 2,000 page omnibus appropriations bill rushing through the Senate. The provision—added Tuesday—would lower the standard of teacher owed every child in the nation under No Child Left Behind (NCLB) by permitting teachers still training in preparation programs (known as interns in some states) to be identified as "highly qualified" teachers under NCLB. That designation relieves districts of having to tell parents of the teachers’ sub-par preparation and allows their continued concentration in poor and minority schools.
"Why would the Senate agree to allow low-income students and students of color to continue to be disproportionately taught by the least experienced teachers?" said Jeremy Lahoud, Executive Director of the grassroots group Californians for Justice. "Our communities want equal access to the same fully-prepared highly qualified teachers more affluent communities have.”
The attempt to insert the controversial language comes just weeks after a panel of the Ninth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals in Renee v. Duncan agreed with low-income students and community organizations that teachers still in training are not "highly qualified" under NCLB. The case was brought by a coalition of community groups, parents, and students, represented by Public Advocates and pro bono attorneys from Goodwin Procter LLP.
The bill language seeks to overturn the court’s decision and put into statute a Department of Education regulation allowing intern teachers who have not completed a teacher preparation program to be deemed fully credentialed and “highly qualified” from the moment they enroll in a part-time teacher program and start teaching students.
More than 8,000 intern teachers in California and tens of thousands nationwide have been mislabeled annually as “highly qualified” under the Department of Education’s regulation that the court rejected. Evidence in the Renee case shows that nearly a quarter of California’s interns are teaching in schools with 98-100% students of color compared to less than 2% in schools with the lowest population of students of color.
"By any measure of teacher quality, low-income students and students of color always get the short end of the stick," said Oona Chatterjee, Lead Coordinator for the Alliance for Educational Justice, a national coalition of youth groups working on federal education policy, and Co-Director of Make The Road New York. "These students already face multiple barriers to opportunities to learn and succeed. It is unconscionable to hide the fact that a high proportion of them are being taught by less-experienced intern teachers who are not yet fully-certified teach."
"The Department lost its case in court. Now—against the wishes of the low-income communities of color whose achievement it claims to care most about—it is trying to slip through Congress a policy that disproportionately delivers under-prepared teachers to those communities and hides that fact from the public," said John Affeldt, Managing Attorney with Public Advocates Inc. and a plaintiff attorney in Renee. “We call on Congress to reject that ploy and to deal with these issues when NCLB is re-authorized.”
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