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Wednesday, April 17, 2024

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Most County Teachers ‘Highly Qualified’

By Joe Hart

TRENTON — According to the state, the 13,000-plus public school students in Cape May County are in good hands with 99 percent of the 873 teachers in area schools considered “highly qualified” by federal standards.
The state wants all teachers to be highly qualified.
Of the county’s 17 school districts, only four have less than 100 percent of core academic classes taught by teachers who do not meet No Child Left Behind (NCLB) standards. The county Special Services School District has 92 percent of core classes taught by highly qualified teachers; Lower Township Elementary, 97 percent; North Wildwood, 88.5 percent; and Upper Township, 98 percent.
Overall, county schools improved over last year’s survey results in which seven districts had less than 100 percent of core classes taught by highly qualified teachers.
In order to meet NCLB standards, teachers must have a bachelor’s degree, have valid state certification, and demonstrate content expertise in the subject or subjects they teach.
Some local school superintendents cited technicalities as reasons for their teachers not making the NCLB grade.
Superintendent Michael Buccialia, for instance, said all three of his teachers singled out by the survey from the small Margaret Mace Elementary School in North Wildwood actually met the highly qualified standards.
In one instance, Buccialia said data was incorrectly entered into the survey; in another, a teacher with a provisional certificate should have been considered qualified; in the last, the school had difficulty characterizing a special problem-solving class and its teacher for the survey.
Buccialia said all three of the teachers were excellent educators that he considers highly qualified and he expects the technical problems with the survey would be fixed for next year’s report.
Similarly, Barbara Makowski, superintendent of the county Special Services district, said her teachers are very experienced and know how to educate children with special needs.
“We’re confident that our staff can teach the students with special needs that come to our district,” Makowski said.
She said special service districts are particularly hard hit in these types of surveys, because it’s hard to align all of the classes and teachers with appropriate definitions in the survey.
In her special services district, for instance, there is one self-contained class for students with behavioral disorders, Makowski said.
“So that teacher, according to NCLB, should be certified in every subject as well as in special education,” she said.
According to a DOE press release, one of the state’s greatest challenges is recruiting and retaining highly qualified teachers in special education, especially special education in middle school classrooms.
Both Buccialia and Makowski said there are problems with small districts like theirs where one inputting or coding error could throw off survey results by significant percentages. There were 27 teachers surveyed in North Wildwood and only 11 in the Special Services district.
The state Department of Education (DOE) announced the results of the fifth annual survey of teacher content expertise Aug. 20 at the regular monthly meeting of the state Board of Education.
“We continue to see a sustained effort by school districts and educators to meet NCLB’s goal to have 100 percent of our teachers designated as highly qualified under the law,” DOE Commissioner Lucille E. Davy said. “We draw ever closer to achieving this milestone, which symbolizes a commitment to have every child’s teacher meet the highest standards.”
Statewide, less than 900 of the nearly 85,000 public school teachers failed to meet the NCLB standards.
Contact Hart at (609) 886-8600 Ext 35 or at: jhart@cmcherald.com

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