How can a state prove veteran teachers are “highly qualified” to teach their subjects? California’s system, which got an F rating from the National Council for Teacher Quality, is dubious, writes Lance Izumi of the Pacific Resarch Institute. He describes the state’s High, Objective, Uniform State Standard of Evaluation (HOUSSE) which requires 100 points for a teacher to be considered qualified.
It’s possible, for example, to get up to half the points a teacher needs simply by having taught classes in the subject field. Thus, a PE teacher teaching math for five years could get half the points necessary to prove that he or she is a highly qualified math teacher.
Worse, a teacher can earn up to 90 points through so-called “leadership and service to the profession in assigned area.” Although the state lists activities that could earn teachers points in this category, such as serving as department chair, it says that, “This list is not exhaustive.” In other words, schools have wide latitude to figure out creative ways to give points to teachers deficient in subject matter.
Teachers can also earn points by having their colleagues observe their work in the classroom, always a subjective enterprise. Points can be given for vague and non-subject-matter related observations such as “Establishing and communicating learning goals for all students.”
It’s possible for a teacher to rate as highly qualified without knowing much about the subject he or she is teaching.