Why Are Many of Our Children’s Teachers Still Students Themselves?

Posted on 14 March 2012

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By Maribel Heredia
Plaintiff in Lawsuit Against the Department of Education

Four years ago, my son Joey — who was in first grade at the time — came home from school and said, “Mommy, my teacher wasn’t there today. She went to college.”

I figured he had to be mistaken; surely, his teacher had completed college and her professional training. I started asking questions. But instead of putting my mind at ease, the truth shocked me.

It turned out that the person responsible for teaching my son vital skills — how to read, spell, add and subtract — was still learning how to teach.

The more I learned, the more concerned I became. Joey’s situation wasn’t a mistake. It wasn’t even unusual. Today, thousands of “intern teachers” like Joey’s are teaching in California classrooms, with the vast majority of them assigned to our poorest and most segregated schools and to special education classes. Joey was taught first grade by a teacher-in-training because the U.S. government permits this practice, irresponsibly defining those who enter classrooms with little to no prior training as “highly qualified.”

I immediately wanted to know why school administrators had not informed me about Joey’s teacher’s lack of qualifications. Is a medical student passed off as “highly qualified” and allowed to operate on patients? Do we let engineering students build bridges, or law students try cases?

You would think that something called the “parent’s right to know” provision in No Child Left Behind (NCLB) would help. It doesn’t. In a maddening twist, it mandates that parents be informed when their children are receiving instruction from teachers who are not — you guessed it — “highly qualified.” In other words, since federal law classifies interns like Joey’s teacher as “highly qualified,” my district was not required to tell me that she was still a student herself.

Some people might call that a loophole. I call it a lie. Parents need to stand up for our rights, and our children’s rights. I want to make sure that my kids and others in our community are taught by fully prepared teachers — and that when they aren’t, parents are at least told about it. If we know that our children and intern teachers will need extra support, we can plan to spend more time volunteering in the classroom and helping with homework. We can also opt to advocate for our children if they are assigned to intern teachers again the next year, which is an all-too-frequent occurrence for students in our lowest-performing schools.

I’m not saying that a credential guarantees a teacher will do a good job. I realize that there are credentialed teachers out there who are ineffective, and I believe that regularly and meaningfully evaluating all teachers is another important component of fixing our school system. But the existence of a few bad apples among experienced teachers should not excuse the practice of allowing untrained teachers to fill the classrooms of our neediest schools.    

I also want to help put to rest the argument that districts like mine need Teach for America recruits and other interns because trained, experienced teachers won’t take jobs in low-performing urban schools. Two years ago, I was elected to my local school board, and I now know firsthand that it is possible to change policies and practices to face this problem head-on.

My district is still far from perfect, but every time we hire a teacher who is not fully certified, our HR office reviews the decision. We ensure that that there is not a better option, especially given the large pool of fully-credentialed teachers we’ve recently been forced to lay off. In the past five years, we have dramatically reduced the number of inadequately prepared teachers on staff from 163 in 2007-2008 to 49 this year.

A school district can only do so much. We need state and federal laws to create and fund the incentives and better working conditions that make trained, experienced and effective teachers want to teach in low-income, low-performing schools — and stay.

But I’m not about to just sit back and hope that Congress will address the problem of teacher quality. It’s up to parents to do what we do best — fight for our children. We need to start by telling Congress to stop calling teachers-in-training “highly qualified.”


Maribel Heredia is the mother of two public school children and a resident of Hayward, California. She is a plaintiff in Renee v. Duncan, a lawsuit charging the U.S. Department of Education with failing to enforce the right of all students to have a “highly qualified” teacher as defined by the No Child Left Behind Act. In 2008, Heredia was elected to the Board of Trustees of the Hayward Unified School District, which serves more than 20,000 students.

At the very least, anyone sent in to teach our children ought to be required by the State - or at least the district - to prominently post a copy of the credential or other document showing what they are authorized by law to perform, and the agency who has issued that authority.

The people who cut your hair, repair your car, and sell you beer are required to do so. Why not the people who teach your child?

On another point, if the cops catch you driving your child around without a seat belt, you get a ticket. But when you put your child on a school bus with no seat belts for the children, the driver never gets a ticket.

This woman Maribel Heredia as a sitting school board member for the Hayward Unified School District and is having an affair with another sitting school board member Jesus Armas of the current board also Hayward Unified School District.

Immoral or not private or not. But it is corruption at the school board. Read by following links.




I have read the reports you have shared and am disappointed. What disappoints me most is I tried contacting her a few times to discuss the issue of non-credentialed teachers, but she never replied. I assumed she was too busy. Now I see what she has been doing with her time and feel that I truly had wasted mine. Thanks for the heads up. I don't need her to help me tackle this issue. I have been making progress on my own.

It's not clear of she is suing the state or federal deparrment of education.This seems to be a serious problem; but the author should not look to the feds for help. Education is a matter for the states and the sooner we get rid of the federal department of education, the better we will be..and, in addition,save billions.

Some low-income school districts actually prefer to hire teachers who aren't fully credentialed because they are paid less on the school's salary schedule. For example, some unofficially reserve a certain number of positions for TFA teachers. The more years a teacher has been in the classroom and the more degrees s/he has earned, the higher their salary. School districts that are struggling to make ends meet aren't always necessarily looking to hire the most highly qualified applicants. This is just another symptom of a completely dysfunctional educational system that gives the least amount of resources to the communities that have the highest need.

For three years, I was a non-qualified teacher at Richmond High School, California. Upon achieving my credential, I left the teaching profession altogether, stunned at what I was witnessing with respect to the lack sound management practices from the school site and beyond. The responsibilities delegated to me far exceeded my qualifications, and as a result, my students suffered greatly. I was a key component in the equation of inequity as evidenced by the following:

1. Non-qualified teachers spend many hours learning their new trade and developing curriculum, meaning they have much less time to devote to their current students.

2. Non-qualified teachers are given maximum responsibilities BEFORE demonstrating maximum competency. By the time it is discovered an individual isn't cut out for the job, the damage has already been done to many students.

3. The teacher unions make it difficult for administrators to implement management policies that would ensure better use of these non-qualfied teachers. For example, until a teacher is fully qualified and has demonstrated competency, it would not be unreasonable for an administrator to have such teachers adhere to a scripted-learning procedure, yet the unions often oppose such policies. In no other profession, would the novice be tasked with so much responsibility. Also, in no other profession, does the employee tell the management how they expect to be assessed-supervised.

4. The law allows for a percentage of classes to be taught by non-qualified teachers. If your child is one of the unfortunate 10%, the negative consequences for their academic future could be severe. The current system is like that of the lottery, with a percentage of unlucky children being tossed into a classroom taught by students themselves.

The bottom line is that every child should be required by law to be taught and evaluated by fully-qualified teachers. Anything less is truly a lie. The state of California must be held accountable for this irresponsible practice. An immediate intervention is warranted via injunctive relief for the purpose of rescuing those children currently subjected to this reckless practice.

Every Superintendent on up to the California's Superintendent of Education should be on the side of Mrs. Heredia. The fact that they are not is evidence that California's education system needs to be yanked out of the hands of the current policy makers by the citizens who expect, demand, and deserve a quality education system for their children.

I dont know how much I would trust Maribel Heredia. Just read this article about her. http://www.ebcitizen.com/2012/07/text-messages-reveal-another-illicit.ht...

I read this article and it is tough. I know Maribel from Hayward School District and she does not do this cause or anything else justice. http://www.ebcitizen.com/2012/07/text-messages-reveal-another-illicit.ht...

Here's an article about her and this shows the damage she has done to students.

The woman in this article is just as guilty, look at the scandal going on in Hayward Unified School district and the involvement with Jesus Armas.

First of all, a child's first teacher is the parent.
Every educator knows that it is the parent's role teach good values such as honesty, integrity, kindness and to help the child by preparing them to be ready to love school, to love books to feel successful and have good self esteem. A teacher with or without credential can make up for some bad parenting but not fix evrything.

This issue regarding lack of teacher qualifications is a huge deal in the big picture but how much damage do you do to your child when you are a part of the school system, the community and you end up a mistress to a married board member and refuse to step down? Refuse to quietly go away and continue to humiliate and embarrass your children and family?

It is hypocrytical to say you care for your son and children in general when your actions are not appropriate, ethical, or proper.

I think that your work with children should be over, you have damaged the chances to to any good for the Hayward community. Any person that reads your article should keep your behavior in consideration when assessing your credibility and opinions since you can't seem to make good choices right now. YOU SHOULD STEP DOWN AND LET OTHERS WHO ARE NOT DISTRACTED DO THEIR JOB.