Study: more GUSD teachers underqualified

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GILROY
– The number of underqualified teachers in Gilroy exceeds levels
across the state and county, according to a statewide survey
released last week.
GILROY – The number of underqualified teachers in Gilroy exceeds levels across the state and county, according to a statewide survey released last week.

The data from 2002-03 also shows that Gilroy had more underqualified teachers than the previous year, but district officials say they have made large improvements this year.

Assistant Superintendent of Human Resources Linda Piceno said she feels “pretty confident” that within two years, all GUSD teachers will be highly qualified.

“Our average hire this year had more experience and more training than our average hire last year,” she said. “We already halved our number of teachers who are not (holding) at least a preliminary credential.”

The Teacher Qualification Index uses credential status and experience level of teachers at public schools to create a statewide ranking system. The index is not sanctioned by the state but closely reflects new teacher quality requirements under the No Child Left Behind act that will be implemented in 2005-06.

District officials are optimistic that Gilroy will be able to meet the requirements for being considered “highly qualified” because they have already seen a jump in the number of teachers with full credentials and classroom experience this year. The federal government is requiring all teachers to be highly qualified – fully credentialed and experienced in the subject they teach – by 2005-06. Teachers will have to prove they are knowledgeable in the subject they will teach.

Research shows that schools with more qualified teachers perform better than those with uncredentialed staff, the basis for the upcoming federal standard and the school district’s priority of hiring and retaining experienced educators.

Twenty-two percent of teachers in Gilroy Unified School District were underqualified, compared with 11 percent statewide and 12 percent countywide. Gilroy earned a ranking of 5.4 on the index’s 10-point scale, a drop from 6.8 in 2001-02.

The district also employed slightly more uncredentialed teachers in 2002-03 than in the previous year. About 17 percent of GUSD teachers were not fully credentialed last year, compared with 16 percent in 2001-02, based on information from the California Department of Education

However, according to district data, only 5 percent of teachers this year lack full credentials.

All 33 teachers laid off last spring held emergency permits and of the 63 new hires this fall, 51 were fully credentialed.

No Child Left Behind, passed in 2001, requires that schools and school districts move closer each year to the goal of employing more highly qualified teachers.

The statewide teacher quality data is beneficial in helping schools make progress toward the 2005 deadline, education officials say.

“The schools, for the most part, are trying to hire the most highly qualified teachers they can,” said Blake Thompson, spokesman for EdTrust West, a non-profit advocate for low-income and minority students. “They’re definitely looking at things like (credentials and experience), and the index is just a way for people to take that information and roll it up into one. This kind of gives the information to see how we’re moving along.”

Statewide, this year’s data shows some improvement as well as reason for concern, according to Ken Futernick, education professor at California State University at Sacramento and creator of the rating system.

While teacher qualifications improved overall, he said the slow rate of improvement means hundreds of schools will be staffed by underqualified teachers for years to come.

Futernick developed the ranking system after a bill to develop and maintain the index failed in 2001. The bill passed the state legislature but was vetoed by former Gov. Gray Davis for being too costly. Education officials have supported the index, including the California Federation of Teachers and the California Commission for Teacher Credentialing.

The index also is used to examine the distribution of qualified teachers across school districts. On a five-tier scale that ranks districts from “very uneven” to “very even” distribution, GUSD was rated “uneven.”

As GUSD continues to hire more credentialed, highly qualified teachers, Piceno said she expects the distribution to even itself out.

Gilroy has several advantages in recruiting high-quality staff this year, she said.

“We do have a recruiter, and (Recruiter) Gene Sakahara’s position, I think, is very, very critical in terms of making those connections and building a relationship with universities in the area,” Piceno said.

By posting vacant positions on the educational job Web site www.Ed-join.org, GUSD is able to reach a much broader applicant base.

Also, in light of the state’s financial dire straights, Gilroy’s teachers have fared relatively well, Piceno said.

“We had, in retrospect, a much smaller amount of layoffs, and we are not in declining enrollment and that is to our (advantage),” Piceno said.

The biggest hindrance to recruitment efforts remains the high cost of living and housing in the area, she said.

Each state must develop its own definition for “highly qualified” teachers to set a benchmark when the condition takes effect in 2005. The state board of education is holding a special study session on Friday to consider any public comment on the issue.

Some teachers worry the new regulations would send them back to school or looking for new employment.

“I think that the intent was good – to have people qualified in the classroom,” said Michelle Nelson, president of the Gilroy Teachers Association.

There was concern the state’s definition could hurt teachers who are not fully credentialed but have several years of classroom experience or high school teachers who teach a subject that is different from their credential area, Nelson said.

Now, the state is looking at a point system based on credentials, experience and other factors.

“It’s going to be less onerous than we thought,” Nelson said.

The Teacher Qualification Index can be viewed at www.edfordemocracy.org/tqi.

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