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Federal Guidelines For Teachers Upset Local Educators

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RALEIGH, N.C. — Imagine spending nearly three decades in a job, only to be told one day that you are not qualified. That is what is happening to teachers across the country, as the federal government tightens up standards in schools. But local teachers who are affected call the effort misguided.

"No Child Left Behind" legislation under President George W. Bush built a reputation for holding schools accountable when students did not perform at grade level. Now, teachers are finding themselves subject to the standard in a way they did not expect.

"I've heard of "No Child Left Behind", but I certainly didn't think I would ever be considered not qualified," said Garner High School Spanish teacher Kathy Worley.

Both Worley and Margie Donkel, a first-grade teacher at Baileywick Elementary, received letters this month saying they are not considered "highly qualified" under "No Child Left Behind." It has nothing to do with their classroom teaching; it is a test or element of their education that appears to be missing.

"Well, it's a slap in the face," said Donkel. "It's like someone saying, 'Well, your 29 years of work are worthless.'"

The letter the teachers received gives them two options. They can take a test or build a portfolio citing their work and accomplishments. State officials said there are still 8,000 teachers who need to fulfill this requirement.

Donkel said she is missing a national test that was not required when she began teaching. With a June 30 deadline fast approaching, she is busy building her portfolio to prove her ability. Worley does not know what she's missing. She doesn't plan to find out. She is protesting the process to see what happens.

"I'm willing to ride it out," she said.

State officials do not know if teachers will be fired for not completing the work. The federal government has yet to tell them what the sanctions are.