Deemed Incompetent by Federal Mandate
by Linda Schrock Taylor
by Linda Schrock Taylor
The No Child Left Behind law has deemed thousands of teachers to be incompetent, but in all probability the wrong teachers will be labeled for correction or destruction. The Feds cannot even imagine the Titan-sized problem they have unleashed upon the nation. Or maybe it was done purposefully. The supposed cure-all; this push for highly qualified teachers, is nothing but a pretense to fool the people into believing that this time Mommy State "will kiss and make better" the decaying public schooling system. This all is more than an affront — it is outright hypocrisy.
Also, consider that this federal mandate may be used as a convenient way for districts to dump the most highly paid, and most experienced and well-trained staff members. Those very teachers are so often the real instructors — those who stand firm to teach real academics in spite of the Progressives. So often these are the very teachers who have stayed with small districts through decades, working to meet the needs of the students by studying late every night to prepare for new class assignments in subjects they have never taught.
Laws such as NCLB fail to recognize the fact that good teachers are born, not mandated; that good teachers do anything to be sure that lessons are taught; that students learn. When committed and skilled teachers teach children, certification and teacher competency become non-issues; student competency is and has always been the goal for us, as well it should be.
Approximately one-third — or almost 5,000 — of all school districts in the United States are considered rural. As Department officials have traveled the country listening to teachers and state and district officials, they frequently have heard that the highly qualified teacher provisions of the No Child Left Behind law don't adequately accommodate the special challenges faced by teachers in small, rural districts. Often, the teachers in these areas are required to teach more than one academic subject. This new flexibility is designed to recognize this challenge and provide additional time for these teachers to prove that they are highly qualified.
Under this new policy, teachers in eligible, rural districts who are highly qualified in at least one subject will have three years to become highly qualified in the additional subjects they teach. They must also be provided professional development, intense supervision or structured mentoring to become highly qualified in those additional subjects. New No Child Left Behind Flexibility: Highly Qualified Teachers.
At least the Feds admit that there is a huge problem — as in at least 33 percent of the rural teaching force — in at least rural schools. However, it is public knowledge that something is amiss in virtually every other school district, as well. By now, most everyone should be aware of inflated grades and meaningless diplomas, even when students have had supposedly qualified teachers. In one of the Freshman Remedial Reading classes I taught at a large state university, the student with the highest grade point average in high school (4.0) read at 3.7 grade level. I will bet that for most classes during his K-12 schooling, he had teachers who will be given a highly competent rating under NCLB.
Frankly, I have already proven, time and again via the achievement of my students, that I am a highly qualified teacher, but under the NCLB legislation, I am considered unqualified to teach reading, social studies, and the other subjects that I have been successfully teaching since 1972.
Although I am certified to teach any and all of these very same subjects to deaf children, K—12th grade, I am supposedly not capable of teaching them to hearing children. This is laughable since it is so much more difficult to teach deaf children!! My mother, myself, and other former teachers of the deaf now teaching hearing children, realize that our skills in teaching hearing children originated with our training and experience in teaching deaf children. My mother believes that all special education teachers should first be a teachers of the deaf before they teach children with any type of handicap that causes schooling delays in the areas of: interpretation and use of language, reading, symbols, vocabulary, logic...
Being a trained teacher of the deaf even served me well when I worked as a social worker. I quote from my letter of reference when I left that field:
Mrs. Schrock's family, educational and professional experiences had exposed and sensitized her to the kinds of problems and needs children in foster care experience, to the inter-relationship between emotional and physical factors and to the impact on families of major handicaps in a child. In her specialty of education of the deaf, Mrs. Schrock was especially knowledgeable in parent-child dynamics. As inferred, a profession devoted to the education of children with great obstacles to socialization and learning shares many features with the profession and work of social work…Altogether, Mrs. Schrock brought to our unit a wealth of experience and educational background and a capacity to relate to others in a warmly responsive, helpful and imaginatively resourceful manner. She was highly organized and task-oriented; hence she established goals with each family giving their work together a definite framework. Because she is a teacher this aspect of her work was so highly developed it seemed to come about quite naturally. Mrs. Schrock's leaving was experienced as a major loss…"
Yet legislators, lacking insight and background, viewing the oppressed masses through their politically ground glasses, misinterpret the reasons underlying the massive failure of American public schools. Such problems are not just at the federal level for the states are myopic, as well. I am challenging a decision by a state to not certify me to teach English. I have been certified to teach for 32 years, and in three states. I have never not been certified to teach English…until now. I have an undergraduate major in education of the deaf; a minor in English. I have a master's degree in English. I have taught English every day of my teaching career to children who are language delayed in ways that general education English teachers could not begin to imagine, let alone to remediate. However, I am not viewed as certifiable to teach English in this state. Such policies would be funny if they were not so completely ignorant and shortsighted.
I, for one, will be assessing whether this irrational but intentional labeling of teachers via the No Child Left Behind law, and state certification standards, will be for me a problem, or a blessing in disguise. As the Feds seek to put thousands of teachers into Teacher Special Education, offering/forcing "professional development, intense supervision or structured mentoring" they are only creating another Black Hole of Special Education to engulf yet another large portion of the American population in the sea of mediocrity.
In truth, probably experienced incompetent teachers are the lucky ones, for we are often old enough to set our sights on retirement. My heart goes out to the younger, motivated, born teachers who will be trapped to drown within the sinking system of Mommy-State Schools. Then…if districts continue to cut programs until they have destroyed the last remnants of what was once deemed necessary to be considered a well-educated individual, there will not even be music within the schools…no school bands to play Nearer My God to Thee as the waters close over the disasters.
February 21, 2005
Linda Schrock Taylor [send her mail] is an educational consultant, homeschooling mom, and public school special ed teacher. She is available for presentations, inservices, and workshops.
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