Teachers Left Behind
by Kerrie Frisinger, Daily Press, June 30, 2004
For more articles like this
More than 100
local teachers could lose their jobs starting today because of
state licensing rules - a situation that complicates recruitment
for administrators already struggling to fill classroom slots.
For three years, these teachers have worked under nonrenewable
provisional licenses from the state. They had until today to
pass standardized tests and complete coursework required for a
regular teaching license. Many struggled with the exams and are
now stranded in unlicensed no man's land.
School systems have little choice but to look elsewhere to fill
the positions - especially in light of impending changes under
the federal No Child Left Behind Act that will make
certification standards more rigid in the name of boosting
In the process, teachers like Cheryl Constant fall through the
cracks. She's wanted to teach since she was a teenager and for
six years has worked at Mallory Elementary School in Hampton.
But after five or six attempts at Praxis I, one of the required
tests, she hasn't passed it. She won't be back at Mallory in the
fall, and she's thinking about leaving the profession
"I'm very disappointed about it," Constant said. "I mean, what
can I do?
"I don't think it's really hit me yet."
Some of Constant's colleagues with similar troubles have applied
for teaching jobs in private schools or in other states, where
different rules apply. Virginia's minimum scores to pass the
requisite Praxis I and II tests are some of the highest in the
Praxis I resembles the SAT given to college-bound students, with
sections in math, reading and writing. Praxis II tests teachers'
knowledge of their particular subject area.
Constant started on a provisional license, and when that
expired, Hampton continued employing her on a local eligibility
license, which school systems could use as temporary extensions.
That option disappeared for Constant this spring, when the
Virginia General Assembly passed a bill that prohibited local
licenses for teachers who deal with core academic subjects.
That bill brings Virginia in line with the No Child Left Behind
Act. By the 2005-06 school year, instructors in core subjects
will have a maximum of three years to become "highly qualified,"
a marker for teachers' education, licensure and knowledge of
Last month, Hampton estimated that 60 teachers had provisional
licenses that would expire this year. School officials did not
provide a more recent figure this week. About 1,500 teachers
work in Hampton.
Newport News expects to lose 37 teachers from a pool of about
2,400. The school system would like to retain some of them as
teacher assistants, said Mike Lulofs, director of human
Suffolk, which employs one-third as many teachers as Newport
News, estimates that 23 teachers won't have their licenses
Smaller systems, such as Gloucester, Williamsburg-James City
County and York County, can count on one hand their employees
still scrambling to complete licenses. Those systems have a
luxury the larger ones don't: waiting to fill the spots in case
the teachers complete their requirements over the summer.
Virginia is in the middle of a severe teacher shortage, however,
and most administrators know they can't afford to let new
candidates slip away.
"We've still got to pursue teachers for those positions," said
Judy Lee, director of human resources in Isle of Wight, which
has five teachers still waiting on Praxis scores. "I've got to
continue to pursue people as if they're not here," she said.
"They're probably dynamite teachers in the classroom. Sometimes
you just can't take a test."
In March, the state Board of Education attempted to soften the
blow by allowing teachers to substitute their SAT scores, if
high enough, for Praxis I. Constant said she doesn't think she
Constant actually came close to earning her license in 1994,
when she passed the National Teacher Examination, which was the
state's required test at the time. But the state switched to
Praxis in 1996 before she completed her certification. The old
tests were closely tailored to skills she uses in the classroom,
while Praxis I is far more general, she said.
"I don't think it should be based on a test," she said. "Not a
test like that."
back to the top ~
back to Breaking News
~ back to