Departmentalization is illegal in 6th - ProTeacher Community





teacherof6th
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Departmentalization is illegal in 6th
Old 05-24-2006, 05:01 PM
 
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I have been told by my principal that 6th grade can not be departmentalized because it is against the No Child Left Behind Act. I teach in Alabama in an elementary school. Can anyone offer me proof to prove that 6th grade can be departmentalized so that I can try to help convince my principal that it is right for us to teach in departments rather than be self contained?


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I teach in Colorado
Old 05-24-2006, 06:05 PM
 
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but I'm sure we're all under the same NCLB guidelines. I teach sixth grade in a middle school, and we are departmentalized, if by departmentalized you mean:

A separate teacher for all four core classes.
Each teacher with a degree in the subject they teach.

In my state, it's up to districts where they want to put sixth graders. Some districts, like mine, put them in middle school; other districts keep them in elementary. But even when they're kept in elementary, it's not really a contained classroom. The grade level shuffles them around for core classes, in an effort to get them ready for middle school. I realize that's not the same thing as departmentalization. But I think my school is what you would call departmentalized.

I think what your principal might be saying is that you can't departmentalize because his teachers have degrees in education, not a discipline. He may be right that you can't departmentalize under those conditions. When you get into secondary (departmentalized) schools, then this little rider called "highly qualified" comes into play. You have to have a degree in the subject you teach.

Colorado handled that years before NCLB, by ending the education major in colleges and universities. We have no education degree, not even for elementary teachers. All Colorado teachers who have been licensed in the last 15 years or so have a degree in a discipline. That's probably why we can departmentalize relatively easily. Now, if you guys have at least a math major and and English major on board, you ought to be able to do it and not break any rules.

I wonder if that could be what he means.
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Old 05-24-2006, 06:16 PM
 
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I agree with Maryteach. If your teachers are not qualified in Language Arts/Social studies/Math/Science, 6th needs to be self contained. It could be that Alabama has some other regulation since each state has it's own definition of highly qualified.

I am only highly qualified in SS (33 years exp. in teaching reading/lang arts doesn't count). BUT sixth grade is self-contained half the day o I am "allowed to teach LA to them as well as SS. then I teach SS in 5/7/8 in the PM.

Silly laws.
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Well, I certainly do think
Old 05-24-2006, 06:41 PM
 
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it's silly that you're not highly qualified in something you've taught for 33 years. That's nuts. And the fact that the feds refuse to even CONSIDER it shows me that the law is largely aimed at bashing teachers.
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hmmmmm....
Old 05-24-2006, 09:20 PM
 
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i think i'm following the logic on this...but...

the 6th grade at my school (k-6) has departmentalized before (science/math/social studies.....and soc sts/language/math....and a few other combinations, depending on what teachers we have and their strengths and how many there are of us...)

so could i not be allowed to teach 2 classes of science next year (while my partner teaches the social studies to our 2 classes) because i do not have a degree in science? but if we weren't departmentalizing, i'd still be teaching MY class science...

maybe i'm not following the whole thread--someone enlighten me.


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Old 05-24-2006, 11:40 PM
 
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You followed it just fine. You can ruin your own class by not being highly qualified in Science but no one elses.

There is some real logic to having qualified teachers teaching core subjects in MS and above. But it tends to be black and white. An exception is sixth grade IMO. 6th grade is a "bridge year". Some schools consider it elementary, others middle school. Usually in a K-6 school it is treated more as an elementary grade. Unfortunately, your principal is locked into the state requirements.
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Old 05-24-2006, 11:49 PM
 
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Actually, while I agree that it is silly I am not qualified to teach LA based on my experience unless it is self-contained (how silly is THAT), it is really the state that determines what is highly qualified based on their interpretation of a vague law.

I do disagree that it is aimed at bashing teachers. Unfortunately, there were far too many teachers teaching subjects that they had no understanding of - and not by their choice either. I had a friend who has her degree in English, who had to teach a physics class one year because the Science department was understaffed. She had, by her own admission, no understanding of physics. The law was really aimed at incompetent school districts who were "making do" with current personnel putting them in classes they had no understanding of.

Last edited by wig; 05-25-2006 at 07:05 AM..
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Our 6th grade is at the Middle School
Old 05-25-2006, 02:59 AM
 
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All 6th grades in all surrounding areas here are in Middle School and of course they are departmentalized. Our 5th grade is departmentalized and the district does not want us to teach this way but our principal is wise enough to see that if a teacher majored in a certain area, and loves that area, he or she is going to probably be a good teacher in that area.
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Wig, I agree
Old 05-25-2006, 03:39 AM
 
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I have an English degree, and if I had to teach physics, we would be in real trouble!! :-)

Sixth IS a "bridge year." I think NCLB didn't cover all the bases. We need something consistent in sixth grade licensing.
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Old 05-25-2006, 12:36 PM
 
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I think I agree with the wags that say that NCLB should be call No Test Left Untaken. I think test makers are really cashing in on this notion of "highly qualified." A teacher who has taught LA for 33 years is certainly highly qualified, and perhaps more qualified than someone fresh from college with an English degree! NCLB is a very tiresome decree.
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Isn't that the truth?
Old 05-25-2006, 02:18 PM
 
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All we're doing is raising a generation of test-takers. It's crazy. And it's just going to get worse, I'm afraid, before it gets better.
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Old 05-25-2006, 05:32 PM
 
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It's not just the kids who are being test takers. We teachers are being tested to death as well! The teacher who taught LA for 33 years certainly shouldn't have to pass a test to be considered highly qualified! I have a friend who's taught since 1982. She has a special ed degree from college. She learned sign language to teach deaf, but got a job teaching blind so she learned braille. She got a masters degree in ed leadership and after leadership pay equaled teaching pay, she returned to class to teach special ed deaf middle schoolers. Now she has to pass a test to be qualified to teach middle school! Insane in the membrane!
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what?
Old 05-27-2006, 01:53 PM
 
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I teach in Arkansas and I do not know of a school in my city of 55,000 that is not departmentalized. A couple smaller schools are even departmentalized- though a couple team teach or partner teach.

But just remember departmentalized is easier to plan for but you have 4 times the amount of students and that takes a lot of time to grade and hard to deal with discipline in some ways.
I feel there are good and bad about each way to group kids.

Though being self contained in the 6th grade seems a little behind the times- don;t they go to junior high next year with lockers and having to find their own classes?
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I've never heard of this.
Old 05-27-2006, 08:50 PM
 
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I teach in Missouri and I've never heard anything about departmentalization being against the No Child Left Behind Act. Perhaps you could contact your state department of education for more information about this issue.
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Departmentalization
Old 05-28-2006, 05:57 AM
 
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is not against NCLB. What is against NCLB is teachers teaching a departmentalized subject when they don't have a degree in that subject, but an education degree instead. In sixth grade, if you're teaching in an elementary school (contained, or mostly contained classroom) then you can have a degree in education. That's because those teachers are teaching many subjects in a day. We can't expect them to have an English degree, a math degree, a science degree...But if you're teaching in a departmentalized situation (when sixth grade is in a middle school, rather than an elementary school) then you're teaching only one subject, and the expectation is that you have a degree in the discipline you teach.

Districts that put sixth graders in middle school have decided that the kids have come far enough by sixth grade to need a language arts teacher who majored in English, a math teacher who majored in math, a science teacher who majored in an area of science. I have known, or spoken to, many very, very on-the-ball sixth grade teachers (tia comes to mind immediately) who do a wonderful job of teaching all those subjects. But I have known more who really are inadequate in at least one area, especially math. I have known several sixth grade contained teachers who were literally just one page or one chapter ahead of their kids in the math book or the science book. I would have to pay a LOT of attention to math instruction, since I am not a math head and I know it. I understand sixth grade math, but teaching it is something else. I found that out in my student teaching. I am far more qualified to teach lang. arts.

So departmentalization isn't illegal--but the teachers have to have the required degrees.
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Old 05-28-2006, 07:03 AM
 
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Excellent post maryteach. Because we are a K-8 school, and I have an education degree as well as the hours needed for Social Studies, I could technically teach all subjects to my 6th graders. However, beyond general math, I am pretty "stinky" at it and I really do not enjoy Science, so I would not enjoy teaching it.

I like the set up we have where sixth grade is self contained in the AM and travel in the PM. It is a good transition for them.
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Old 06-01-2006, 10:56 AM
 
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After teaching 29.7 years in Michigan, I too, had to take a test to prove that I was highly qualified to teach language arts. I taught it for years and years, but my degree was in fine arts. I also had permanent certification which was supposed to be EVERLASTING, BUT THAT MEANT NOTHING! I could have been without a job, or taught younger students which I would have been "qualified" to do-even though I know myself I would not be qualified to do. I cannot teach lower el kids, no matter how great they are. I did pass, but I was a nervous wreck until I took the test. I mean REALLY STRESSED OUT! Anyway, I think it is a way to get us "old-timers" out-maybe I'm wrong about it. Also, we spend our time teaching for tests and taking the tests (which I said I would never do). What is happening here? All we are doing is producing STRESSED OUT STUDENTS, and society wonders why kids act like they do. We are putting way too much pressure and them (and the teachers) to do well on the tests. What happened to having a little fun in the classroom by doing something on the spur of the moment that has nothing to do with the curriculum benchmarks, but is a teachable moment? Whoops, forgot! We can't do that-kids have to be ready for the tests! Don't deviate from the curriculum!! I guess I'm am not that much for all the aspects of NCLB. Thanks for listening to my vent for the day.
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What about me?
Old 06-01-2006, 04:42 PM
 
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I'm learning a lot from this thread. I am in Virginia in a departmentalized middle school. My undergraduate degree is in Economics, with a minor in history. My graduate degree is in Middle School Curriculum and Instruction.

I teach 6th grade science all day. I love it and I'm really good at it. And I thoroughly understand everything I teach. My district says that because of my masters', I'm "highly qualified" to teach any of the 4 core subjects. Next year, because of shifting teacher teams, I will teach science half the day and English half the day.

I would like to remain a science teacher indefinitely. Do you think I should get some more college science classes under my belt just in case their definition of "HQ" changes in the future?

It just seems to me that these definitions of HQ are awfully changeable.
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Old 06-01-2006, 04:57 PM
 
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No kidding. AND they can vary from state to state.
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Dawn, I don't doubt
Old 06-01-2006, 06:15 PM
 
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for a minute that you're wonderful at what you do AND that you understand the subject matter. If you came to my state though, you couldn't teach science in middle school without a degree in a hard science, and you couldn't teach English without an English degree. Your masters degree wouldn't make you HQ here (only a masters in a discipline would fix that), so I wonder about the state-to-state thing. But people with education degrees can't come here and even teach elementary, as all elementary teachers have degrees in disciplines, as well (they grandfathered in those who were already teaching with education degrees, obviously).

How stupid. Telling good teachers that they're not qualified is ridiculous. I understand wanting people to have degrees in what they teach, but if someone has loads of experience teaching something, they should be able to just pass a test and go on teaching. First, they pay us peanuts, then they insult us, over and over again.
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middle school
Old 06-01-2006, 07:32 PM
 
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huh. since this thread was started, our district has announced that it is looking into moving our 9th up to high school (our district's currently 7-9) and moving 6th up to middle school. huh. where does that leave me, as a teacher of 6th? i doubt they'll move 6th up and then keep them as self-contained. it won't happen for a good few years, but i have to wonder if i'll be "qualified" to teach 6th just because they're in a different building--ha ha!
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Old 07-07-2006, 07:31 AM
 
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The thing about NCLB is I truley believe it was started with good intentions.
Having been married to the have to move alot in the past I observed some scary things with long term substitute teaching. And I'm not just talking one state.
The sixth grade math teacher who put the days work on the board and sat in the back reading his bible. (The parents thought I was wonder teacher because I actually explained it first)
The kindergarten teacher who locked all the supplies and books in the closet because they were only migrant workers. Why waste time and good materials on students when you should be teaching them their true vocations: sweeping, cleaning, coloring in the dots, etc.
I saw too many of these and no one did anything because of tenure. I also saw schools who hired people with two year degrees to save money.

It started out as a good idea but they let the wrong people design it.

It also ended as the teacher getting more work with less help.

It is right up their with the inclusion laws. Yes many students can handle it and benifit from it but some can't.

Both only show that you cannot legislate what an individual child needs.
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What about me?
Old 07-11-2006, 05:39 AM
 
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I would take the Science Praxis for middle school in case your state
changes their guidlines. It is a form of insurance and you would not have any problem passing it.
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Old 08-03-2006, 10:13 AM
 
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Teacherof6th - there is not a legal stipulation in NCLB that states in any way that departmentalization (or any other classroom organization) is illegal. What your administrator might be referring to is the fact that under NCLB, teacher are now required to be "highly qualified" To be considered HQ, a teacher must meet certain requirements. In the event that your 6th grade is located on a secondary campus (middle school rather than elementary) AND you don't have any "secondary - highly qualified" teachers currently on staff, then it would be "illegal" for you to work a departmentalized situation. HOwever, it sounds like you're sitting on an elementary campus.....in that situation, your teachers would have to be "elementary - highly qualified" in order to take on departmentalization.....an easier task than HQ for secondary. Anyway, your principal is obivously trying to evade your question.....having been a school administrator before and having set up departmentalization in grades 3 and 4 on my campus, I can tell you that he / she is probably overwhelmed by the scheduling issues that arise from setting up departmentalization for only a few of the grades on your elementary campus......just a thought.
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Highly Qualified and the middle school
Old 08-03-2006, 10:36 AM
 
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Our sixth grade is in the middle school. However, to teach sixth grade, you can have an elementary license. Two of the five on my team have the certification to teach their subject in the middle school, but we also have elementary licenses. The other three have elementary licenses. They can not teach beyond sixth grade, but they can teach sixth grade in the middle school. There has been no mention, that I am aware of, of the NCLB Highly Qualified Teacher requirements. It is amazing how different it can be from state to state.
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