Foundations and Assessment of Education/Edition 1/Foundations Table of Contents/Chapter 1/1.6.2

From Wikibooks, open books for an open world
Jump to navigation Jump to search
Are You Highly Qualified? A Study in What Constitutes a Highly Qualified Teacher

Learning Targets[edit]

Students should be able to:

  1. Describe the standards of a highly qualified teacher, in the eyes of the US Department of Education
  2. Identify examples of recent changes in No Child Left Behind (NCLB), to the definition of a highly qualified teacher
  3. Explain reasons why teachers in specific communities have more flexible licensing guidelines
  4. Describe the standards that NCLB opponents believe make a highly qualified teacher
Quality is never an accident; it is always the result of high intention, sincere effort, intelligent direction and skillful execution; it represents the wise choice of many alternatives -William Foster (Davis)

One of the most argued over subjects in education today is, what constitutes a highly qualified teacher? Is it that they know everything there is to know about their subject matter? Is it that they can manage their classroom in an effective way? Or, is it that they have a good mix of both? These questions are central in the argument over what makes a "Highly Qualified" teacher.

The opinion of the US Government is integral in the licensing/certifying of teachers. It may not be a perfect opinion, however, it is the basis under how teachers are rated. The US Department of Education believes that a highly qualified teacher must have three things. They must have a bachelors degree, full state certification or licensure, and they must prove that they know each subject they teach (NCLB, 2004). The Federal Government, State Governments, and School District all hope that teachers possess all of these qualities. However, it is rare that school districts can fill all of their vacancies with what the government considers highly qualified teachers, especially in rural and urban settings. Does this mean that the teachers that fill these vacancies are not good teachers or don't deserve the job? States often find it necessary to relax their guidelines because they are desperate for teachers. For instance, in Wisconsin, teachers must complete a Bachelors degree that includes a major in the subject that will be taught, plus education coursework, an 18 week student teaching internship, and if they are requested to teach in another field they will be expected to have a minor in that field. However, Louisiana requires no degree in the specific course that the teacher will be teaching and no education coursework. A six week student teaching internship is required (Darling-Hammond, 94). State governments are in a tough predicament as they attempt to follow federal guidelines and insure that students have the guidance of the most qualified teachers.

If a teacher does not have a bachelors degree, full state licensure, and know their subject matter, does this mean they are not qualified? This is the question that government opponents have been asking ever since NCLB was passed. Opponents of NCLB believe that classroom management, teacher-student relationship, and how effectively they can teach the subject matter are the most important factors in a highly qualified teacher. This is shown as private schools and independent schools do not require even a bachelors degree to teach. Barnett Berry, in his article What it Means to Be a Highly Qualified Teacher, states that "These are teachers who know not only their subject matter, but also how to organize and teach their lessons in ways that assure diverse students can learn those subjects. These are teachers who can help each student reach higher academic standards, even when those students learn in different ways or have a learning disability or may not speak english as their first language...Highly qualified teachers don't just teach well-designed, standards-based lessons: They know how and why their students learn" (Berry,2002). Berry, along with many others, believes that there is more to a teacher than just an education. Others, such as Carol Mullen and Jose Farinas, who wrote an article for Teacher Education and Practice, entitled What Constitutes a Highly Qualified Teacher?, a Review of Teacher Education Standards and Trends believe that there are many other skills that teachers need and if they don't have them, they are at risk of failure. They refer to the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards 1987 report on what was wrong with education. They found five ideas that would make a teacher qualified for the position. A commitment to students and their learning, knowledge of subjects and effective pedagogy, responsibility for managing student learning, systematic thinking about practice, and affiliation with learning communities (Mullens/Farinas, 2003). The majority of these are not mentioned in the NCLB guidelines, and many people, including teachers believe that they are necessary to be an effective teacher.

Opponents of NCLB won a small battle in 2004, when the Department of Education changed some standards and became more flexible on the pursuance of becoming highly qualified. Rural districts have trouble filling teacher vacancies, and oftentimes, teachers are forced to teach more than one subject. The Department of Education changed the guidelines to give teachers three years to become highly qualified (by their standards) in the other subjects. Flexibility has also been given to Science teachers, who school districts are desperate for. They now must demonstrate a that they are highly qualified in either "broad field science or individual fields of science" (NCLB, 2004). Certain teachers now have more freedom to pursue their qualifications in a timely manner, which was desperately needed by many.

As an educator, the term "Highly Qualified" is one that gets a reaction from many in the teaching field, and many outside of the teaching field. There are numerous ways to translate exactly what it means to be highly qualified. One side believes that you must be as educated as possible and if you are'nt, you better get educated quick. This is the same side that believes that test scores determine how successful a teacher is. In Florida, former Governor Jeb Bush instituted a merit-pay program which rewarded teachers for good test scores, believing that a students success is based on how effective his/her teacher is (Wallis, 2008). Another side believes that the classroom dedication that a teacher has is the most important thing, and the rest will fall into place. Either way you look at it, the one thing that everyone has in common, is that the students are the most important factor in any discussion. Whats best for the student is whats best.


Berry, Barnett. (October, 2002). What it Means to Be a "Highly Qualified" Teacher. Southeast Center for Teaching Quality.

Darling-Hammond, Linda. Solving the Dilemmas of Teacher Supply, Demand, and Standards: How We Can Ensure a Competent, Caring, and Qualified Teacher for Every Child. National Commission on Teaching & Americas Future, Ed 463 337.

Farinas, Jose & Mullen, Carol A. (2003) What Constitutes a "Highly Qualified" Teacher? A Review of Teacher Education Standards and Trends. Teacher Education and Practice.

George, Davis. Quality Education: Prospects and Challenges. APH Publishing.

Wallis, Claudia. (Feb 13, 2008). How to Make Great Teachers. Time Magazine. Retrieved February 3, 2009 from,8599,1713174-1,00.html.

United States Department of Education. New No Child Left Behind Flexibility: Highly Qualified Teachers March 2004 (Fact Sheet). Retrieved from


1. Which of the following is part of the US Department of Educations definition of a "Highly Qualified" teacher?

a. must have majored in the subject that you teach

b. must be American

c. must prove that you know the subject that you teach

d. must hold a masters degree

2. The US Department of Education has relaxed some of the guidelines to becoming a qualified teacher, which of the following is one of those changes?

a. Specific rural teachers have 3 years to become certified in a second subject

b. PE Teachers do not need a degree to teach

c. Elementary school teachers have 5 years to come certified

d. History teachers no longer need a PHD in History

3. Stacy has her Bachelors degree in Math, and a Masters in Teaching. Which of the following outlets would she contact if she wants to apply for teacher certification in Virginia?

a. the State Dept. of Education

b. the School Board

c. the City Council/County Board

d. the Principal

4. Headmaster Johnson does not care if his teachers have a degree of any sort. He most likely works at a

a. Public Elementary School

b. Private School

c. Public High School

d. A US Army Based Middle School

Answers: 1. C, 2. A, 3. A, 4. B