Public school educators unqualified says study; homeschool teachers must be 'certified'

Two reports here related to educating our children.  One is about government (f)education facilitators not knowing their subject but teaching it anyway and the other about the State requiring parents to be *certified* in order to teach their children at home. 
Jackie Juntti

Study Blasts Teacher Qualifications - Says teachers are being assigned to teach classes they're not trained to lead  

Thursday, August 22, 2002 
Seattle Post-Intelligencer

WASHINGTON -- One day soon you may find that your child's seventh-grade biology teacher majored in economics - and that English teacher, she may be pining to teach French.

As public middle- and high-school students head back to class over the coming weeks, a new report suggests that it's likely they'll have at least one course taught by a teacher trained in another subject.  One in four classes is taught by such a teacher, according to The Education Trust, a Washington organization that advocates for urban and minority students.

The group, which issued the report Wednesday, said the problem is much worse in schools that serve poor and minority students.

"It's clear that administrators have yet to get the message that they have to stop assigning teachers out of field," said Craig Jerald, an Education Trust senior policy analyst.  "Sure, shortages make it more difficult to tackle this problem, but there's good evidence that a lot of this is under our control."

The report said the problem hasn't improved since 1993.  Jerald cited "administrative sloppiness and carelessness" as a major cause.

"If we have widely recognized surpluses in language arts and social studies, why are there so many language arts and social studies classes assigned to teachers without even a college minor in those fields?" he said.  "It doesn't make sense and it suggests that our actions are a part of the problem."

Paul Houston, executive director of the American Association of School Administrators, said the issue is not that simple.

"It's not like people are sitting around saying, `Let's fill these classrooms with people who are not qualified,'" he said.  "If the people aren't there and aren't willing to work for these (school) systems, you're going to have a problem."

The issue will receive broad attention this fall as the federal government, for the first time, requires schools to tell parents when their children are being taught by these teachers.

Part of an education plan signed in January by President Bush requires that if an instructor is assigned to a subject he is not qualified to teach, the principal must send home a note letting parents know within a month.

The report was based on a random survey of about 55,000 teachers by the Education Department.  The Education Trust examined responses from 16,000 secondary school teachers in the most recent survey, from the 1999-2000 school year.

The group looked at whether classes in four core subjects - English, math, science and social studies - were assigned to a teacher who lacked a college major or minor in that field or a related field.

Nationally, 24.2 percent of classes were taught by such teachers, but 12 states had more than 30 percent of classes fitting that category.  Five states - Arizona, Delaware, Louisiana, New Mexico and Tennessee - averaged more than one-third.

In schools that serve mostly poor students, nearly twice as many courses are taught by out-of-field teachers as in schools with few poor students, the analysis found.  The problem also is worse in schools that mostly serve minority students: 29 percent compared with 21 percent for schools that have low minority enrollments.

Richard Ingersoll, the University of Pennsylvania researcher who analyzed the data, said the problem is more serious in middle schools, which have 44 percent of classes, on average, taught by out-of-field teachers.  That rises to 53 percent in high-poverty schools.

--- On the Net:

Education Trust:
Schools and Staffing Survey:

 August 21, 2002
California warns home schoolers
By Ellen Sorokin

     School officials in California are warning parents that they cannot educate their children at home unless they obtain professional teaching credentials.
     Without the proper credentials, parents no longer can file required paperwork that would authorize them to home school their children, states a memo issued by the state Department of Education. As a result, those children not attending public schools would be considered "truant" by local school districts.
     "In California, 'home schooling' a situation where non-credentialed parents teach their own children, exclusively, at home whether using correspondence courses or other types of courses is not an authorized exemption from mandatory public school attendance," state Deputy Superintendent Joanne Mendoza wrote in the July 16 memo to all school employees.
     "Furthermore, a parent's filing of the affidavit required of a private school does not transform that parent into a private school," the memo continued. "Therefore, those parents who home-school their children are operating outside the law, and there is no reason for them to file an affidavit."
     Advocates of home-based education say the memo is just another ploy to frighten home-school parents into sending their children to public schools. Part of it has to do with money, they say, as the state's education department is dealing with a $23 billion deficit.
     "This has to do with money and ideology," said J. Michael Smith, president of the Virginia-based Home School Legal Defense Association. "California would be the only state in the union that would require home schoolers to be certified teachers."
     Miss Mendoza's memo was sent to all district and county superintendents, private-school coordinators, school-attendance review board members, and district and county pupil-services administrators. Miss Mendoza is the deputy superintendent of the department's curriculum and instructional branch.
     Her two-page memo tells school employees of a new procedure that private schools must follow to excuse their students from public-school attendance. Private schools are required to file affidavits for that purpose between Oct. 1 and Oct. 15 each year, and beginning this year, they can file the paperwork via the Internet.
     Nicole Winger, a spokeswoman for the state education department, said yesterday the memo hasn't changed anything.
     "This memo just said that, 'Hey, this information is now available on the Web site,' that we're just making the process and paperwork more accessible," Miss Winger said. "There is nothing new in this memo. The Department of Education has been consistent in the application of the law over the years. All parents are welcome to supplement their children's education with home instruction, but not substitute the education with uncredentialed home instruction."
     Defenders of the movement say home schooling is legal under a state statute that allows any parent to operate a "private school," even if the student body includes only one child. California is one of 12 states where home schooling is conducted under a private-school exemption.
     "There is an attempt to coerce these people to send their children to public schools," said Gary Kreep, founder and president of the U.S. Justice Foundation in California. "Some officials don't like home schoolers because they are the last bastion of independent thinkers, the last bastion of individuality. If these children are not in public school, teachers can't tell them that homosexuality is normal and permissible, which is what's being taught in California."
     Local school districts, including the San Diego County Office of Education, have sent similar memos to private-school administrators, adding that children whose parents don't provide appropriate documents "will be considered truant."
     "Our sincere apology and regrets for any inconvenience regarding this matter," Stephen Fraire, a coordinator with the county's pupil-services department, wrote in the Aug. 2 memo. "Unfortunately this situation is not in our control."
     Roy Hanson, director of the California-based Private and Home Educators of California, said he is telling home-school parents to monitor the situation without waging any kind of campaign. "We're telling parents to be alert," Mr. Hanson said. "We're telling them not to panic, not to be complacent and know what the facts are."

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