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Highly Qualified according to whom? Degrees and tests do not indicate the qualifications of a teacher. In my opinion, HQ teachers, are teachers who continually work to improve their techniques to teach and to relate to the all students regardless of their abilities or inabilities. Everyone is respected in their classroom and everyone has equal representation. These are qualifications that cannot be measured on a test. Teaching appears to me to be the only profession where people whose only qualifications to judge are that they have been a student at some time. Too bad we don't have to have highly qualified congressmen and women. Wonder how many wouldn't qualify? After all there should be no senator or representative left behind.
When I moved to the state of Florida, I had to take a test to become a highly qualified teacher under NCLB. It didn't matter that I had a graduate degree and administration credentials. The test was trivial pursuit. I could have just as easily have failed it, but I passed to become "highly qualified."
My undergraduate education prepared me well to teach. More education allowed me to master my profession. I was fortunate early on to teach in a school with a visionary principal and colleagues who realized that teachers are the experts at educating children. We did our own research. We put successful programs into place that had never been tried before. We used our knowledge about how students learn to act in the best interest of children.
We fought higher administration every step of the way. Teaching isn't like any other profession. Teachers never get to grow up and practice our craft as others do. Our bosses are school boards (and now the federal government with NCLB) that have no knowledge about how to educate children.
Since I moved to Florida, I have not found the professionalism or respect for teachers that I onced enjoyed. Until teachers are allowed to practice their profession without fear of losing their jobs for doing their jobs, we will continue to have to answer this silly question about what makes a "highly qualified" teacher. Just like with children, it certainly is not a standardized test.
My mother was a highly qualified teacher who taught for 30 years on a lifetime credential that required no further units. Although she was under no obligation to continue taking classes or submit herself to vacuous staff development that I have never seen implemented, she always took classes and sought other avenues of learning throughout her life. She was part of an innercity Los Angeles Unified School District that at the time was a self-motivated professional teaching corp that demanded and achieved excellence from its students.
Degrees, certification, and demonstrated mastery are of no avail in the present LAUSD - even to a "highly qualified teacher" - if the students the teacher is given continue to be socially promoted and are years behind in the mastery of grade-level standards.
As a high school teacher, I have no trouble having my competency as a teacher judged by student performance, if the initial level of my students is taken into consideration in making this assessment. However, asking me to achieve grade-level standards for students who enter my classroom years behind after being socially promoted is dishonesty.
Trying to shift the focus of the present failed public education system to teachers by seeking "highly qualified teachers" is less than forthright when garden variety qualified teachers like my mother would do just fine if someone had the political guts to draw the line in terms of minimal grade-level achievement necessary for passage on a grade by grade basis. Or to paraphrase former President Harry Truman, "The buck stops where?"
The best way to determine whether a teacher is "highly qualified", or any other level of qualification is to ask their students, their principal or their peers.
We don't measure student success, so you can't use that. Degrees do not tell you anything about whether they can teach or not. Continuing ed, ditto. You can't measure a person's performance by these static means.
Let the building personnel determine qualifications based on performance in the classroom, staffroom and hallways.
Highly qualified teachers are those teachers who light the spark for students to want to learn. All the credentials in the world will not help a child learn if the child is not motivated. A highly qualified teacher also recognizes the learning style and level at which a student is able to learn. The HQ teacher then uses the knowledge to effectively motivate the student.
We don't need just "good" teachers - we need great ones. Ones that can connect with students, recognize the teachable monemt, have knowledge of their subjects, and are flexible to adapt and use new ideas and methods.
Without all of the above, no degree - no matter how high when earned can make a highly qualified teacher.
Teacher education does not make a highly qualified teacher. A highly qualified teacher is one who loves their job, is able to make their subject matter exciting and learn-able to their students and is willing to take the risks necessary for students to learn. We are caught in the world of standardized tests that prove only that we can teach the test to a large number of students and make our numbers look good.
You can have all the degrees and not be qualified to teach any subject. Possessing knowledge of the curriculum content means little if you no not possess; the skill with which to present the material, the ability to relate to the students, and lack the desire to impart this knowledge to children. If we cannot reach the children by loving them, they will not open up to what you can teach them. Qualifications to teach should include some way to determine their desire and empathy toward children. We have to care first.
One must reach the student and bring out the best in him. So that he or she retain the information and makes a personal connection with the materail.
I believe that a highly qualified teacher is measured by performance in the classroom, continual professional development, experience, and evaluation by peers and students. Does one need more than a bachelor's degree? I don't think so. Just a willingness to continue learning and growing along with changes in curriculum and methodology.