WASHINGTON (AP) -- Changing course, the Education Department will allow states to count teachers as highly qualified even under standards that may do little to ensure quality.
Federal law allows veteran teachers to be considered highly qualified under factors that states choose, such as job evaluations, teaching awards or service on school committees.
The department in May ordered states to phase out that system for most teachers. Watchdog groups and the department itself say many states were using this system to set weak, improper standards.
Yet Education Secretary Margaret Spellings has pulled back, telling states this week in a letter that they now are "strongly encouraged," though not required, to stop using the method to rate teachers.
And if you need any evidence at all that this is a bad idea:
The National Education Association considers Spellings' letter a victory.
And here's something just as sad:
President Bush's education law says teachers are highly qualified when they have a bachelor's degree, a state license and proven competency in every subject they teach.
States were supposed to have a highly qualified teacher in every core academic class by the end of the last school year. None met that deadline, so each must try again this year.
That seems like a fairly low standard to me. I wonder why we can't meet it. And before someone trots out the "small rural school" point, I'll accept that argument as legitimate. But not every teacher in non-"small rural school" environments is highly qualified by the minimal definition above. Why is that?