Educators: New Law May Cause Teachers to Quit

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Nevada lawmakers have been warned that the federal No Child Left Behind law may cause some veteran teachers to leave the profession rather than face more schooling, tests and perhaps sanctions.

Lynn Warne of the Washoe Teachers' Association told the Legislative Education Committee on Tuesday that 83 teachers retired in Washoe County last year - significantly more than in previous years.

Warne said she fears more longtime, experienced teachers could resign rather than meet the requirements as "highly qualified" under federal law.

The law is in effect for new hires and will apply to existing teachers by July 2006. About two-thirds of Nevada's teachers now meet the "highly qualified" standard, education officials said.

Warne said later the effect on Clark and Washoe counties, the state's urban centers, will be significant, but the drain could be worse in rural counties.

Ken Lange, director of the Nevada State Education Association, said veteran teachers are critical to the quality of public education because they're good teachers and have the skills to help new teachers improve. He said that's especially important because only about 30 percent of new teachers are still in the profession after five years.

Keith Rheault, Nevada superintendent of education, said the law requiring all teachers to meet standards, including proof of training in the core classes they teach, will be difficult on some experienced teachers but the Education Department is trying to make sure good teachers aren't driven out of the classroom.

"Our philosophy is they were qualified the day before the law went into effect," he said. "They should qualify and they are going to qualify."

Rheault said teachers who will have trouble meeting the standard are those who haven't continued their education through the years since they were first licensed. Professional development courses are widely available - even to rural teachers who can get accredited classes through the Internet, Rheault added.