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Article of Interest - No Child Left Behind

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Bridges4Kids LogoSome Teachers Left Behind
by Kerrie Frisinger, Daily Press, June 30, 2004
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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 teacher quality.

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 altogether.

"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 nation.

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 subject matter.

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 resources.

Suffolk, which employs one-third as many teachers as Newport News, estimates that 23 teachers won't have their licenses renewed.

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 qualifies.

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."


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