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No Child Left Behind or Special Education Teacher Blues May 8, 2007

Posted by Daniel Downs in education, government, news, No Child Left Behind (NCLB), politics, public schools.

Burrell Pope is an Education Specialist with Dekalb County School System. He wrote an interesting article entitled “What Is The No Child Left Behind Act?” It was published in the American Chronicle where I also publish some of my thoughts on education and current events. I his article, Pope gives an excellent but brief history of federal legislation leading to No Child Left Behind (NCLB).

What I found interesting about his article is the presumed affects NCLB has on experienced special education teachers. NCLB established specific qualifications for these teachers. In the past, states have required special education certification, which certain qualification had to meet. NCLB has added new qualifications that requires new and current to meet. Pope relates one story of a woman who has taught for 35 years and has been recognized for a number of accomplishments. She considered quitting because she received a letter from the US Department of Education saying she was no longer qualified. To regain qualified status she must take 8 courses.

What a bummer.

This may seem a bit heartless, but I do not feel sorry for teachers like her. I have several reasons for seeming a jerk. One, all teachers are required to obtain certain number of credit of continuing professional education. Two, we all know economies changes, politics changes, people changes, needs changes, etc. NCLB is not a Bush thing. It was a bill passed by Congress. It mandates all school children achieve a specified proficiency standard. These standards were not made up by President Bush or by Congress; they were made up by select group educational professionals, state and federal representatives, business leaders, and others. Because the standards have changes in order to reach these new education goals, changes were necessary to ensure all special education teachers were prepared to accomplish them. Three, the experience and skill gained over many years is no doubt impressive. As the saying goes, “old dogs still need to learn new tricks.” Professionals still do not know everything. In spite of the aurora of expertise, professionals certainly do not always know what is best for all under their tutelage. If they did, they would probably have worked themselves out of a job. After all, making all special education students no longer learning disabled is the ultimate goal of teaching.

No, I am not being unrealistic. I realize some special education students will never achieve the same level of academic achievement as most other kids. That is why NCLB has established different standards of proficiency for special education students. The group of peers who created these new teacher quality standards is making those special education teachers who also teach core content subjects like Reading, Language Arts, Math, and Science to be certified in those areas. I understand why Pope thinks veteran special education professionals should not have to take certification courses for subjects they have taught for years, but, there is another way to look at the situation. The courses should be easy and they should also count toward continuing education credits.

It seems to me that all the belly aching of education professionals about the hard changes created by NCLB points to part of the real problem of public education, and it is not a money problem. It could be that the Special Education Teacher blues is becoming a pandemic of schoolhouse whining.

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1. in2thefray - May 9, 2007

I enjoyed and agree with many of your points. I’m not a big fan of NCLB due to my personal experience with some of its poor implementation. I agree with its opponents who find it involves a lot of extra bureaucracy.That is something public schools especially didn’t need an extra helping of. My strongest agreement is with your point that the teaching professionals undoubtedly need to maintain proficiency. I find it hard to believe in the land of the NEA and ATF the teachers are lacking compensation for the classes needed.

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