“Highly Qualified” Interns – a Mendacious Misnomer

I posted the following “comment” after reading Beverly Young’s guest commentary on John Festerwald’s Thoughts on Education (TOP-Ed) blog site.  Ms. Young responded to another posting on TOP-Ed titled, “Alternate Route, Same Destination,” by Catherine Kearney.  Her posting supported Congress’s recent decision to deem intern teachers as “highly qualified” following a recent U.S Circuit Court of Appeals ruling reversing the designation “highly qualified” for teachers going through alternative certification programs.  All of which stemmed from a controversial lawsuit filed by the advocacy group Public Advocates.


As someone moving into teaching after a 25-year career in high-tech, with both an electrical engineering degree and an MBA in finance and marketing, and someone expert in my former field, I agree with Ms. Young.  Intern teachers, regardless of their past work experience, academic credentials, commitment, or passion, should not be considered “highly qualified” teachers from a NCLB definitional standpoint, much less a performance standpoint.  I would go so far to state that it is the rare person, indeed, who as a new teacher holding preliminary credentials, whether from a traditional or alternative path, deserves to be deemed “highly qualified” from a performance standpoint.  Think about it.  What profession designates its rookies and junior staff with the same descriptor as if they were on par with veterans and experts in the field?

As one can see, in many ways, this is also about semantics.  ESEA / NCLB adopted a misnomer when it opted for “highly qualified” to designate a credential holder.  While it is important that we delineate between non-credentialed and credentialed teachers, which serves as a minimal, directional indicator of effectiveness, the ability of new teachers holding preliminary credentials is not “highly” anything except germinating.  Specifically, when interpreted to indicate “highly capable,” “highly effective,” or the like, the designator is misleading at best, and harmful at worst.  Sadly, most misconstrue the NCLB usage to mean the latter.

As a student teacher in a traditional credential program, with a fair amount of time in classrooms, and a soon to be preliminary credential holder, I do not consider myself anywhere near “highly qualified” as a teacher.  I am a neophyte in the world of high school today.  My commitment is high, my passion intense, my background comprehensive, and deep, in many areas aligned with the subject matter I teach, yet I am nowhere near “highly qualified” from a performance standpoint.  I hope to be in three to five years, with continued coaching in an induction program, and significant effort on my part, to hone my pedagogical practice.  Given that I am fairly representative of “alternative credential candidates,” albeit one in a traditional program, I believe “highly qualified” mischaracterizes most serving as an intern, student teacher, or even a preliminary credential holder; it is as if they were as highly qualified as more senior, more capable, and more effective teachers.

At the same time, as Ms. Young mentions, this is not to deter persons like myself from changing careers into teaching.  Nor is it to detract from the fine programs that bring talent into the classroom.  It simply speaks to what, on its face, seems obvious.  Someone new to a profession, indeed one designated an “intern” no less, cannot be designated highly qualified if that is meant to imply highly effective, which rightly or wrongly is how most interpret that phrase.

While they’re still in training, intern teachers are not yet highly qualified

Posted on 1/18/11 • Categorized as Teacher Development

By Beverly Young

The recent posting “Alternate Route, Same Destination” by Catherine Kearney presents one perspective on the recent congressional action to reestablish California’s teachers who are still in training through an alternative program of preparation as “highly qualified.” This distinction is not merely one of words; the congressional action allows the continuance of California’s strange definition of these teachers: They are considered to be “highly qualified” in their profession before they are actually “fully qualified” and have completed initial preparation for their profession. Although I have worked with Ms. Kearney and truly respect her dedication to her work, I would like to point out several disagreements with her perspective as well as some factual errors regarding these programs and the congressional action. <full article>

About Dave aka Mr. Math Teacher

Independent consultant and junior college adjunct instructor. Former secondary math teacher who taught math intervention, algebra 1, geometry, accelerated algebra 2, precalculus, honors precalculus, AP Calculus AB, and AP Statistics. Prior to teaching, I spent 25 years in high tech in engineering, marketing, sales and business development roles in the satellite communications, GPS, semiconductor, and wireless industries. I am awed by the potential in our nation's youth and I hope to instill in them the passion to improve our world at local, state, national, and global levels.
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3 Responses to “Highly Qualified” Interns – a Mendacious Misnomer

  1. Pingback: Dashboard Delusions | Reflections of a Math Teacher Candidate

  2. Pingback: A New Teacher Says He Is Not “Highly Qualified” « Diane Ravitch's blog

  3. Pingback: A New Teacher Says He Is Not “Highly Qualified” « Diane Ravitch's blog

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