Letters-July 8, 2004

‘Highly qualified’

in small schools
To the editor:
   As principal of South Hunterdon Regional High School, I would like to respond to information regarding the highly qualified teacher.
   As the principal of a small school, I will be the first to admit small schools have many advantages. These advantages include smaller class sizes, the ability to provide personalized instruction and the ability to build relationships with students and community members.
   Likewise, small schools also face distinct challenges. These challenges include, but are certainly not limited to, less flexibility with scheduling and staffing course offerings.
   With that stated, I believe it is accurate to acknowledge the highly qualified teacher requirements place challenges on small schools. For example, at South Hunterdon, highly qualified teachers teach every regular education class. However, we have a number of special education teachers, but those teachers have to be "highly qualified" in more specific subject content areas. Furthermore, in small schools, one or two teachers represent a significant percentage of teachers, thus skewing the percentages further.
   In regards to the No Child Left Behind legislation and its definition of highly qualified teacher, I would like to echo the words of William L. Librera, commissioner of education, "It’s important for parents to understand that the NCLB definition of a ‘Highly Qualified’ teacher is based solely on the attainment of specific credentials to demonstrate content expertise that will soon be required of all teachers by the federal government. It has little to do with the quality of a teacher’s performance in the classroom."
   In closing, I am that every school in the state of New Jersey has the same goal, to be compliant with federal law and staff every class with highly qualified teachers, however, this will present more of a challenge for smaller schools.

Donald D. Woodring
South Hunterdon
West Amwell