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.

About Joanne


  1. It would seem to me that you measure what you want to achieve. If we test the performance of the children and hold the educational establishment responsible for the results then you are measuring that which you care about not an antecedent to the variable of interest.

    One point of clarification before I get to many negative remarks, if you teach 7th grade math and child comes in with a 4th grade proficiency and leaves with a 6th grade proficiency you have done a great job and should get a bonus. To an outsider like me it just looks like this would be easy to do if you could get the politics out of the way.

  2. Da C Man says:

    Wait… it’s the teachers who are trying to avoid work and accomplishment by playing the system? Isn’t that the students’ job?

  3. Walter Wallis says:

    Just because the map is not the terrirory does not mean we throw away all our maps.

  4. PJ/Maryland says:

    For example, according to the latest statistics, more than a third of eighth-grade math teachers in California did not major in either math or math education in college.

    Actually, that doesn’t sound bad to me. I didn’t take much math in college, either, but it sounds like almost 2/3 of all 8th grade math teachers in California majored in math or math education. (Maybe someone could check my subtraction?) Presumably high school math teachers are even more likely to have a math or math ed degree.

    It does sound like California’s HOUSSE system could allow some current teachers to be designated “highly qualified” without much subject area knowledge. (BTW, does anyone know if there are other designations, eg “reasonably qualified”, “barely qualified”, “unqualified”?) It sounds like a less cumbersome system, requiring at least some subject matter tests, would be an improvement.

    But Ross has a point. If a school does poorly under NCLB, there will be pressure on those teachers who aren’t holding up their end. I’m confident that other teachers will know which teachers these are, even if California’s HOUSSE system doesn’t.

  5. A person wants to be a doctor, so if he put a band-aid on a cut finger, he can get up to 50 points. Then, he can sit in a chair from the department store and show leadership by telling someone to take a Motrin. He can get up to 90 points for that. He then can have his friends/colleagues give points for talking about health care. Wow! He has all his points.

    Do you want to be his first patient?

    It’s the same principle.

    Do you really want someone who isn’t qualified to teach your children?

  6. Honey: Absolutely. I want the least intelligent, most unqualified gold brickers this country has to offer teaching my child. If they’re dumb, make ’em a teacher!

    IOW, what kind of question is that?

  7. Rita,

    The question was sacarasm to how the teachers can earn points to be qualified to teach. 🙂

  8. Tim from Texas says:

    Dear Honey:

    Of course, all teachers should be qualified. There does exist out there the worst teacher in all the country. Most of the states,cities,ed. planners,and teachers themselves, are stiving to do a much better job. Teaching children,for that matter, teaching anyone is very hard work. Teaching children, however, is extermely hard work. But please, don,t forget there is the worst engineer,lawyer,accountant,doctor etc. also. In addition, the children and parents need to be held to accountabilty and some strict qualifications also. When parents take or send their children to the doctor and the doctor prescribes the medicine, the homework, and the plan for getting better, well, the parents and the chidren certainly follow it and get with the program. Unfortunately, this doesn’t occur in education with any kind of regularity and it becomes a real problem in respect to attracting and keeping well qualified teachers. Now many people are want to say it’s the problem with the salaries, and certainly, better salaries would help. However, well behaved, willing to work, courteous, honest, and community minded children and parents would go a very long way in helping to solve this problem. Now, one more thing, the parents and children over there on “the other side of the tracks” are not the only parents and children that need to think about this and other aspects of their actions. Why, let me say, I have taught at two so called “great” schools and at three so called “bad innercity-accross the tracks schools” and let me tell you,none of them were, by any means, a walk in the park. Yes, all of them would have,could have achieved more with some better teachers. But, it is definitely not just a teacher problem, the parents and their children, on both sides of the tracks, bear much of the blame as well.

  9. Dear Tim,

    Any job is hard work, not just teaching children. Many of us that hold jobs, don’t get the perks and benefits that teachers get. We don’t get two weeks off at Christmas, or spring breaks, and all holidays off. We don’t get three months off in the summer. We have to go to work when school is called off due to the weather and find day care. We don’t have insurance and we won’t get a paid retirement. We serve the community also.

    We don’t complain about our jobs or salary, we’re thankful we have jobs. We don’t have a union backing us. We don’t blame children or people who we don’t know, when we don’t do well at our job. We accept criticism and learn from our mistakes. We can’t earn points to see if we’re qualified for our jobs. We have to do our jobs and do them well or we’re fired.

    As for the worst engineer, lawyer, accountant, doctor, etc. we have the choice to pick and choose. This doesn’t hold true when it comes to who is going to teach a child and being able to pick the school where the child attends.

    As for accountability, where is the teacher’s or the school’s? An example: a fifth grader who can’t write cursive, can’t spell and has a 2nd grade reading and math level? Whereas the parents have been told from school year to school year that the child is doing fine, he’s such a nice child and so well behaved. When the parents finally figure it out, and ask for help they’re told that was a 3rd or 4th grade requirement. The parents want to help the child, but the teacher doesn’t offer any suggestions or any kind of help. These are parents that volunteered at the school as room parents, gave their time on special projects that the teacher’s needed help on, donated paper, yarn, markers, etc.

    We have differing opinions. 🙂

    I wish you health and happiness.

  10. Oh please. I am, like, *so* rolling my eyeballs. Nobody else in the world complains about their salary and working conditions. And I’ve got a bridge over the Mississippi for sale. For real.

  11. As a practical matter, I don’t think it really matters if a teacher has a degree in the subject they teach. Maybe even the opposite in some cases – professors with CIS and MIS degrees have universally been the worst computer teachers I’ve ever seen.

    I attended a small private school and most of my instructors had no formal credentials. But, frankly, it’s really not that that hard to teach basic math, reading, and english. What’s important is that they know the material, can communicate it effectively, and can keep the kids under control.

  12. Tim from Texas says:

    Dear Honey:

    I wish health and happiness for you as well. I also wish great prosperity for you.

    Of course, other jobs and professions are hard work. I didn’t imply that they are easy and I didn’t imply that people who work hard at other jobs and professions don’t serve the community.

    However, we are discussing here the job of teaching children and it’s problems. If we we’re talking about other endeavors we would be speaking of their failings, successes, and benefits as well. If we were discussing your profession, for example, I’m certain you and other persons in your profession would be able to point out situations,problems,and indiosyncrasies peculiar to it, which those outside of the profession would not and could not be easily or readily cognizant. This is all I’m attempting to do with my posts here.

    For example, the benefits and perks of the teaching profession such as you have enumerated in your post, should attract as many a well qualified person to the teaching profession as needed. In addition, the salary, especially the beginning teacher salary couldn’t be sneezed at.

    The fact is that many an intelligent, qualified, individual has taken a teaching job for those very reasons but quit after the first year or even bolted after a few weeks and then took a job with less perks and many fewer benefits, and in many instances less pay. When one thinks about it, and considers it at face value, it is unbelievable, if not astounding. This fact or phenominan,if one can call it that,has it’s causes. In my post I’m trying to point out one of them.

  13. Dear Tim,

    The first law of philosophy: For every philosopher, there exists an equal and opposite philosopher.

    The second law of philosophy: They’re both wrong.

    It’s time for me to bow out on this thread.

    Thank you for your wish of prosperity. I also wish you prosperity along with joy and peace in your life.

  14. This system has two purposes. First, to allow current teachers to avoid taking the CSET:

    Secondly, of course, is to protect their jobs.

    I recently took (and passed) the CSET in Social Studies. Despite my being fairly well educated, I would have failed if I hadn’t put in a significant amount of time studying. I suspect that many, if not most, current teachers would not pass the first time.

    When I did my emergency credential training, I was told that of the first group that took the math CSET, less than 20% passed. This was after a *very* tough initial screening process. While my class did not have that many pure math majors, we had a lot of engineers. Indeed, so many failed that they allowed people to get a limited “foundational math” certification for those who failed the calculus part but passed everything else.

    I’ve also read that so many people were failing the science CSETs in the specific subjects of biology/life sciences, chemistry, earth and planetary science and physics, that they added a credential in “general science”:

    As applied to new hires, at least as initially developed, the CSET test was demanding. If you passed the test, you had really demonstrated some mastery of the subject matter. The system for current teachers is a joke.

    Have you paid your penance? Drinkers Purgatory

  15. DeeJay says:

    There are people who do complain about their jobs, but they don’t go public about it and tell everyone how underpaid they are and want taxpayers to keep giving them salary increases.

  16. Rita C. says:

    DeeJay: maybe that’s because they aren’t paid by the taxpayers. To whom should teachers complain about their salaries? The CEO of Johnson & Johnson? I don’t understand the logic of your statement. You’re resentful that teachers ask for pay raises from those who are in power to give it to them?

  17. DeeJay says:

    Oh! Like tell me where does the money comes from.

    I have my property taxes right in front of me as I type this and over half goes to the local school district. Yes, taxpayers pay for teachers’ salaries.

    Schools get money from the federal goverment also. Where does that money come from? Taxpayers!

    So if taxpayers don’t pay teachers’salaries, then why do they tell the public how underpaid they are? I don’t understand that.

    Rita, I’m not resentful and I look forward to you telling me who is in power to pay them and where that money comes from.

  18. DeeJay says:

    I misunderstood your post Rita. Sorry for the above post.

    Do you think any other business or company would take complaining like that? No, they’d fire those people. That’s the real world.

    When was the last time a teacher didn’t get a yearly raise? In the real world, companies aren’t giving yearly or cost of living raises. Companies are also down-sizing and laying off people. The school system doesn’t lay off 1000’s of people.

    The point being, if you’re not getting paid enough, do what the rest of us do and look for another job.

    I have no problem paying my taxes, but again when over 50% goes to the school district and less than 4% goes to the fire department I have a problem with that. I hear no complaints from the fire department. They do their jobs.

    When I pay for something, I expect it to work properly. The school system doesn’t work. When children are given a diploma and only have a fifth grade reading level and 3rd grade math level; give or take on the numbers. I don’t understand that. I’m a parent of one of those children! Year after year I talked to her teachers and year after year I heard the same story. She’s doing well, she’ll do fine with her life. She’s doing well now, as after graduating I had to pay for tutoring and extra schooling so she could go to college. Why should I have had to do that?

    Maybe now that I think about it I am resentful.

  19. Rita C. says:

    Actually, my husband, who works at a corporation, got a big bonus and a raise this year (which I have enjoyed thoroughly). The union workers at his company are preparing to strike. I assume they’re unhappy about their compensation.

    In other professions (in which I have worked), if I feel I deserve a raise, I might ask my boss about it. As a teacher, I can’t do that. My salary is set by the Board, voted on, and is inflexible.

    As a teacher, the lack of school choice for students also means a lack of choice about where to work. I can’t jump ship from Monsanto to Bayer because Bayer will pay me $10,000 more a year. If I jump to another district, I will lose money. Depending on how many years I have in the system, that could amount to more than $10,000/year. If I jump states, I lose pension years, as well (and I don’t pay into social security, so I won’t collect it).

    The fire district here has asked for bond issues every year I’ve lived in this city. The local school district has not. I don’t think fire fighters are greedier than teachers.

    The St. Louis City School District did lay off hundreds of people this year. My own district has laid off a few people (it’s a small district, so hundreds would pretty much mean every single employee).

    I pay taxes, too. I’m aware of how my salary burdens the people who live in my district. We receive a very small amount of federal money — just a few grants. I’m sorry your district sucks. Didn’t his/her Terra Nova scores tip you off? Many of my kids graduate and go on to the best colleges in the country. I also have kids who read on the 4th or 5th grade level when they graduate.

  20. DeeJay says:

    I’m glad that your husband got a big raise and bonus and that you were able to enjoy it. 😉 Hope you got yourself something nice!

    My husband’s company didn’t do raises for the employee’s this year and the company insurance went up, so he’s making less this year, than last year. The employee’s salary is dictated by a corporation in another state. You just can’t ask your supervisor for a raise. When raises are given, they’re all the same, none are given on merit.

    My company laid off and I was one of many that got laid off. I’m living a life of leisure at this point in time, lol.

    Things aren’t like they used to be. Times are changing…

    I’m sorry that you can’t jump ship to another school. (See above line). I’m not being sarcastic, I really mean it. We all have a tale to tell.. Maybe we should take the time and listen, instead of jumping at what we perceive as injustices. It’s easy to do over the net as a person can’t see face to face.

    Why don’t you pay into social security? As we are all aware, social security may or may not be there by the time many of us are able to retire and if so, for many it won’t be enough to live on.

    Our fire department hasn’t asked for increases.

    Here the district keeps wanting to “opt out.” They even hired a survey company to poll people on if they’d vote for a tax increase. They have money for that, but are “cutting into bare bones” on everything else. That doesn’t make sense.

    There is good and bad in everything, I’m sure there are good districts out there, but I don’t see it here.

    As for my daughter, I was at the school’s year after year. I called for meetings with her test scores in hand, I was continually told she was a good student, she’s doing fine. I wanted her to have one more year of school before they graduated her and they wouldn’t do it. Again I was told she’s doing fine, she’ll be able to go to college. “We’re the professionals and you’re the parent. We know what we’re doing.” The old cliché, you can’t fight city hall , holds true for the school system here.

    They were right, she was able to go to college, but at more of my expense with the extra tutoring and schooling. She now lives in another state and is a nurse.

    One question, what do you tell the parents of children who graduate and can only read with a 4th or 5th grade level?

    Since I feel we’re talking civilly to each other, I have one more thought. I have read and heard a lot about how it’s the parents’ fault or it’s the home life of the students, etc. That just upsets the parents and they won’t support you, whether it’s volunteering at the school or voting for a tax increase for the schools.

    Talk to the parents openly and honestly, most will hold their child accountable to their homework. They want their child to succeed in life.

  21. El Castigador says:

    Most of the problems with bad teachers can be traced back to the Teachers Unions. Take a look at what it takes to get rid of a terrible teacher. You’ll be surprised.

    Many teachers in teaching jobs right don’t have what it takes to make it outside the walls of the “public education” complex.

    Public education should be privatized.