State delays notice

Published 12:00 am Thursday, June 26, 2003

Troy City Schools and Pike County Schools, along with systems statewide, no longer need to worry about sending letters out in the fall identifying teachers who do not meet the criteria for being a highly qualified teacher.

In a called meeting Thursday, the Alabama Board of Education adopted a resolution that says no such notification will be sent until the board authorizes it, even though the No Child Left Behind Act requires such notification between now and the 2005-2006 school year.

&uot;I am pleased that they voted to delay the letters,&uot; said Mark Bazzell, superintendent of the Pike County School System. "There is so much misinformation out there about what the letters actually mean."

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Toni Stetson, assistant superintendent for the Troy City School System, said teachers were nervous about the letters being sent home.

"Teachers were distressed that word would be sent to parents that they were not qualified," she said.

Both Stetson and Bazzell said such letters would mislead parents to believe their child's teacher was not capable of teaching, when in fact the opposite is true.

Bazzell said all of his teachers graduated from colleges or universities with accredited education programs, are licensed by the state to teach and are certified by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools.

Stetson said Troy City teachers were also certified and qualified to teach.

She said the letter is "demeaning or degrading to the individual school teacher."

"To send out letters to parents telling them the teacher is not qualified is misleading and unfair to the teachers," he said.

Deputy State Superintendent Joe Morton said the board made its decision because the members felt Alabama teachers were denied opportunities to become highly qualified because the state "cannot offer specific subject-matter testing due to a long-standing federal court order and that a 'high objective uniform state standard of evaluation' will not be ready for implementation until November 1, 2003."

The board felt the lack of the standard evaluation put Alabama teachers on uneven ground with the rest of the country.

Practically, the delay means teachers will have a little more time to figure out exactly what they need to do to become highly qualified before parents are notified.

"One problem our teachers have had is the difficulty of us communicating to them what they have to do," Bazzell said.

"We've been chasing a moving target."

Bazzell said the state draft outlining the specifics of being highly qualified is constantly being updated. And even though the decision gives some teachers a little breathing room, Bazzell said the decision still has to make it past scrutiny in Washington.

"The question now is how will Washington react to this decision," he said. "If they don't feel it falls in the guidelines of No Child Left Behind, they can withhold federal funds."

Morton said the board's decision does not ignore the requirements of NCLB.

"The board action was not an outright defiance of the NCLB Act," he said.

"Rather, it stated a strong belief that Alabama was not being allowed to have its teachers judged to be highly qualified on a level playing field and urged that a resolution be negotiated prior to a possible stand on ignoring the law."