Kingman teachers working on course work to comply with No Child Left Behind

Gregg Cummins is in his fifth year of teaching special education at Kingman High School North on an emergency certification from the state.

He is among 30 teachers presently working outside his or her degree area in the Kingman Unified School District.

But he is nearing completion of course work that will get him a certification in special education to put him in compliance with federal No Child Left Behind legislation that mandates all teachers have degrees in the subject they teach by the fall of 2005.

"I'm two classes short of my certification and I'll be there (by the deadline)," Cummins said.

"The law has not affected me that much since I've taken a minimum of two classes per year for the last several years."

Cummins hold a bachelor's degree in biology earned from Northern Arizona University in 1998.

He said there is a greater need for special education teachers today than biology teachers and that is why he is teaching outside his degree area.

He has received financial assistance from the KUSD to taking the necessary courses toward special education certification.

KUSD has 438 employees who hold teaching credentials and all have at least a bachelor's degree, assistant Superintendent Betsy Parker said.

"Some schools are sitting at 50 percent (of their teachers on emergency certification), especially small rural ones," Parker said.

All 30 teachers on emergency certification in the KUSD are working toward the credentials needed in their subject area and most will complete requirements this year, Parker said.

Pamela Tomlinson is a first-year teacher of special education at Kingman Academy of Learning Middle School.

She holds an associate's degree and teaches on an emergency substitute certificate at present.

But Tomlinson, a 1993 graduate of KHS, said she will have a bachelor's degree with dual majors of elementary education and special education from NAU-Mohave next month.

"I've been working on it a long time because I have kids, so I've been going to school for about 10 years," she said.

"I try to take six hours at a time and it takes a while.

"In high school I was an assistant in the special education program.

I loved working with special education students and felt that was my calling in life."

Arizona has roughly 3,000 teachers that don't meet the No Child Left Behind guidelines at present.

The state has only 1.2 applicants for every teaching position, so rural areas are hard hit with shortages, especially in special education.

"We got to the point where we had to look for people working toward their degrees and that's what we did with (high school special education teacher) Jody Gardner and Pam," Susan Chan, KAL district administrator, said.

"We've advertised nationally, at college fairs, on national charter school web sites and the teachers are just not there."

KAL has 57 teachers certified in the subject area in which they are instructing and seven on emergency certifications.

Gardner will have her special education certification later this year and the district is working with all seven on emergency certifications to get them properly credentialed in time, Chan said.

U.S.

Sen.

Jon Kyl (Rep.) supported the federal law enacted last year.

"Sen.

Kyl doesn't think the law uniquely disadvantages Arizona," Noah Silverman, Kyl's legislative assistant on education issues, said.

"The requirements of it are challenging and it will be tough in many jurisdictions, but it will ensure our children are getting the best instruction possible."

Federal assistance in the form of teacher quality state grants are available to help teachers take the courses necessary to complete degrees in the areas in which they teach, Silverman said.

Teachers may apply through their districts for some of the $3 billion set aside for teacher improvement.

The Arizona Education Association stands behind the No Child Left Behind legislation.

"We want to see all students taught by teachers in their field," John Wright, vice president of the AEA, said.

"It's less of an issue of teacher compliance than for schools and districts to be in compliance because of how teachers are assigned with some working in parallel areas.

"The first thing we need to make sure of in the future is that we recruit fully-certified teachers with expertise in their area being assigned to teach in their content area.

We need to recruit enough teachers from the hard-to-find disciplines so we don't assign anyone out of field."

The intent of the law is to help children get a quality education, Parker said.

The biggest worry is going to be the continuing teacher shortage.

"It's always a challenge and when we recruit we have to be able to sell our system and the town," she said.

"We have to push the good weather and climate, the fact that we have mountains and lakes nearby, and that Kingman is a super town in which to raise kids."