Category Archives: highly qualified teachers

A Twelfth Chance

Once upon a time (which is where all good—and even bad—stories begin) in a district far away, I failed a CPR course. Don’t ask. It was ugly. Even though the instructor gave me a second chance, I failed again.

So when our special ed director mandated that every special ed teacher in our district take first aid and CPR training, I was mortified. The memory of my previous failure still haunted me.

Today’s training, however, was far different from the one that left me feeling shamed and humiliated. The instructors were kind and patient. Their goal was to make sure that no one failed. After watching an informative video, they gave us lots of time to practice what we had learned. At the end of the day, everyone—including me—passed.

As a teacher, I need to remember the most important lesson I learned today: A second chance may not be enough. Sometimes it takes a third, a fourth or even a twelfth chance for a student to succeed.

Patience, Magical Mystical Teacher. Kindness.

Then stand back and watch your students blossom.

No Paycheck for Me

President Merit Pay wants my paycheck to reflect the standardized test scores of my students. If the scores go up, my paycheck goes up. If the scores go down, my paycheck goes down.

President Merit Pay should meet my students. All of them have learning disabilities. Two of my sixth-graders can’t read. They have virtually no phonemic awareness. They recognize a few simple words—a, an, and, the, but—and that’s about it.

All of the kids I work with read far below grade level. An average third-grader can out-read my students. How are they supposed to comprehend a standardized test written at grade level?

Yet President Merit Pay wants my paycheck to be based on what my students cannot do.

I guess that means no paycheck for me.

Highly Qualified?

Can you stand one more NCLB story? (I’m not sure I can.)

In April, my principal insisted that I was not a highly qualified teacher. I turned to the state department of education for guidance, and received the following communication via e-mail:

Special education teachers in 7th & 8th grades, who are the Teacher of Record, need to be HQ in the core content area of Elementary Education and NOT every core content. They are to be HQ in the same area as the special education teachers in grades K-6, Elementary Education. Assuming that the teacher has a valid Special Education Certificate in the appropriate disability area, [and] if the teacher has taken the … test and passed, they are HQ as a Teacher of Record. If the teacher was HQ through the HOUSSE Rubric in Elementary content before June 30, 2007, they may continue to use the HOUSSE to be HQ.

That, I thought, settled the matter. Alas, it was not to be.

A couple of weeks ago, reps from the state department of education descended on our district. One of the reps compared the teachers’ certifications with teaching assignments. I was among 28 teachers in the district declared to be not highly qualified, because supposedly I am teaching out of my area of certification.

I was told that I had two choices: take a state exam or take classes to become highly qualified to teach language arts. I decide, instead, to scour my transcripts for every possible English credit I could muster. (I need 24 to be considered highly qualified.)

I also tracked down the e-mail I received from the state in April and forwarded it to the district’s curriculum coordinator, who called the state department of education Wednesday. After what I assume was a lengthy and convoluted phone call, the curriculum coordinator sent me and the other middle school special ed teacher this e-mail:

I spoke with [someone in the state department of education] today. She has agreed that based on what you have told her about your current teaching assignments, you both are highly qualified. Here is the catch: You both must be teaching LA, not reading. … If you are truly teaching reading, you have to be HQ and take classes or exam. … It is all in the words you choose when talking to the[m].

So, as of 24 hours ago, I am highly qualified to teach language arts—again.

I wonder what my status will be next week?

NCLB Strikes Again

Tuesday I received an e-mail from the district’s curriculum coordinator:

NCLB requires all schools to have 100% of their teachers highly qualified. [The superintendent], each building principal, and myself will be meeting individually with each non-highly qualified teacher to set up a Highly Qualified Individual Teacher Corrective Action Plan.

You are on the … list as currently being not highly qualified or teaching out of your area of certification. Please bring your certificates, endorsement areas, evaluation plans, documentation of tests or coursework, and any other information to a mandatory meeting this Thursday, September 24th @ 3:30 pm in the District Board Room. We will be supporting your continued efforts to become highly qualified. Thanks for your attention to this very important matter.

I assumed that teachers were scheduled for specific times. That was a bad assumption. Every teacher who received this e-mail was told to report at 3:30 p.m. So, of course, everyone showed up at the same time. Two hours later, I was finally admitted into the august presence of the district administrators.

A conference phone call to the state’s “NCLB expert” resulted in my learning exactly what is required of me to become highly qualified to teach language arts to seventh- and eighth-graders. (I’m already highly qualified to teach sixth-graders.) If I can produce—which I can—transcripts proving that I have at least 24 semester hours of English credits, I will receive an endorsement to teach middle school language arts.

The state department of education has wavered back and forth since January about my highly qualified status. One week they say I am highly qualified, and the next week they say that I’m not. I have wasted countless hours talking with or e-mailing state officials—and worrying that my job was in jeopardy.

I hope today’s word from the state department of education is the definitive word. I’m tired of having to jump through hoops. I have no charitable feelings toward No Child Left Behind:

Draconian NCLB,
Why don’t you go jump in the sea?
Just leave me alone!
No one could have known
How much you would aggravate me!

© 2009 by Magical Mystical Teacher

Just Call Me Alice

I think my name is Alice, and I live in Wonderland.

Several days ago, I was told by the state that I am not a highly qualified teacher.

This morning, moments after the school day began, the principal appeared at my door. “Can I see you for a minute?” he said.

I assigned some independent math practice to my students, stepped into the hall and closed the door behind me.

“I’d like to appoint you to be the lead teacher for the special ed department,” the principal said.

My jaw dropped. “Why?” I asked.

“Because you know what you’re doing and you’re doing a fine job,” he said.

“But,” I sputtered, “I’m not highly qualified.”

“Who says?”

“The state. Speaking of which, I’d like to know when the administrators are going to get together to figure out my fate and the fate of the other special ed teachers.”

“We had a meeting about that last night.”


“There’s nothing to worry about. You’re not going to lose your job. So, are you going to accept my offer or not?”


“Good. Congratulations!”

I’m still a non-highly qualified teacher in the state’s eyes, but in my principal’s eyes, I’m competent enough to head the middle school’s special ed department.

I’m sure my name is Alice, and I live in Wonderland.

Highly Unqualified?

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.