The good folks from the state department of education visited our fair district a couple of days ago to review certification and job assignments. As a result, they have declared six of eight special education teachers to be not highly qualified according to No Child Left Behind.
I am one of them.
The declaration from the state folks has nothing to do with my education or experience. It has to do, rather, with the fact that I am the teacher of record for both sixth- and seventh-graders, who change classes throughout the day—an unforgiveable sin in the state’s eyes.
There are several steps that either the district or I can take to make me sin free:
1. I can take the state test in language arts (which I can pass easily) and the state test in math (which I will never pass) to become highly qualified in a single subject. (I could also earn a master’s degree in English—at considerable expense.) I would then teach only language arts to students with IEPs in grades 6-8. However, since there are so few students with IEPs in each grade, I would become a part-time teacher. Ever try living on less than $20,000 a year?
2. I can move from the middle school to the elementary school, where there is currently an opening. I’m not sure, however, that I’m ready to abandon my quirky middle-schoolers in favor of “ankle-biters.”
3. The district can declare that I am no longer the teacher of record and mainstream all the kids on my caseload. I would then simply “assist” the teacher of record in day-to-day instructional activities, much like a teacher’s aide. (Presumably, I’d still be compensated according to my education and experience, but in this district there are no guarantees.)
4. Or the district could (and this would be my choice) give me a self-contained class of sixth-graders and I could teach all subjects: language arts, math, science, social studies and life skills.
Our curriculum coordinator says that something must be done soon to meet the draconian requirements of NCLB. Whatever that something is, I’m sure we special ed teachers will be the last to know.
In the meantime, the good folks from the state department of education have said to our special ed director: “We would rather see students with IEPs taught by a long-term sub than by a certified special ed teacher who is not highly qualified.”
No wonder public education, at least in this place, is in such a state of disarray.