Parents question 'highly qualified' teachers


A California-based coalition and some /*Bay Area*/ parents are suing the federal government over what they consider education "deception." They are questioning a practice that allows "teachers in training" to call themselves "highly qualified."

Damian Molinari is a fully credentialed teacher deemed by the state to be "highly qualified." But that term, "highly qualified," is also used to describe teachers-in-training, known as interns.

Maribel Heredia is a parent from Hayward. She's suing the /*U.S. Department of Education*/ after discovering her son's teacher was an intern.

"Would you want a doctor who just graduated to do surgery on you? I don't. So it was baffling to me, how, it's just common sense that an intern is not highly qualified," says Heredia.

Interns must have at least a B.A. and have completed some education courses, but they lack the on-the-job training in their subject matter, that fully credentialed teachers have.

"We're not opposed to intern teachers. It's a fine way to train teachers. The problem is the federal regulation calls these teachers in training highly qualified and that's just absurd. These teachers are people who are still learning how to be teachers," says Heredia's attorney John Affeldt.

This is how California gets away with calling interns highly qualified: The /*No Child Left Behind Act*/, signed in 2001, stated that every child must have a highly qualified teacher in the classroom. But, because California has a teacher shortage, interns have been counted as "highly qualified."

"Our teacher shortage is primarily in certain subject matters such as math, such as science, such as special education. There aren't enough positions in the teacher pipeline to take positions in teaching, says Deborah Hirsh of the /*San Francisco Unified School District*/.

The lawsuit also asks that these interns be more dispersed throughout the different communities.

"They ought not to be concentrated in low income, high minority schools, which is currently the case in California," says John Affeldt.

It's now up to a federal judge to decide whether California should follow the true definition of a "highly qualified" teacher, as stated by No Child Left Behind. Any ruling is expected to be appealed by the losing party.

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