Deeming Interns ‘Qualified’ is Harmful to Students

Education Week

Letter to the Editor, published January 25, 2011:

To the Editor:

The Christmas/Hanukkah/Kwanzaa gift President Barack Obama signed into law on Dec. 22, 2010, that will allow states to classify teaching interns (students earning teaching certificates and endorsements) as “highly qualified” was a giant lump of educational coal to our nation’s minority, low-income, and English-language-learner students, and students with disabilities (“New Law Labels Interns ‘Highly Qualified Teachers,'” Jan. 5, 2011).

The provisions on “highly qualified” teachers in the No Child Left Behind Act and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act have been nothing more than an egregious education Ponzi scheme since they were signed into law by President George W. Bush. The U. S. Department of Education has never enforced the highly-qualified-teacher provision. Teacher-interns and even long-term substitutes have continued to staff general education and special education classrooms, not only in low-income schools, but also in some of our nation’s wealthiest, in the case of special education.

Students are losing their educational lives due to their teachers’ poor training and incompetence in the classroom. We let students attending teacher-preparation programs staff virtually any class in school districts across America with counterfeit documents referred to as waivers, permits, and approvals. Do we let medical students perform open-heart surgery or prescribe medication? Clearly the answer is no. So why do we let students in teacher-preparation programs pretend to be teachers and practice on students?

Finally, there was hope across the United States for low-income and minority students, and those with disabilities, with the ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit that California had illegally classified thousands of teachers in training as highly qualified. Congress and President Obama have quietly killed a federal court ruling that would have been the impetus for states to redefine decades-old teacher-preparation programs and train America’s teaching workforce to provide a globally enviable education to all of our children in pre-K through 12th grade.

Marcie Lipsitt
Franklin, Mich.
Vol. 30, Issue 18, Page 24

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