Quality Counts Reveals National ‘Teacher Gap’

By Lynn Olson — January 08, 2003 2 min read

States are taking steps to recruit and retain skilled teachers, but few of those efforts are targeted at finding teachers for the students who need them most, an Education Week report set for release this week concludes.

Read the report, “Quality Counts 2003: If I Can’t Learn From You.” Includes an executive summary.

Quality Counts 2003: “If I Can’t Learn From You,” which continues the newspaper’s series of annual report cards on public education in the 50 states and the District of Columbia, focuses on the “teacher gap,” or the dearth of well-qualified teachers in high-poverty, high-minority, and low-achieving schools. The 181-page report, which was supported by a grant from the Philadelphia-based Pew Charitable Trusts, was scheduled for release Jan. 7 at a press conference in Washington.

The report examines what the states and the District of Columbia are doing to attract, keep, and support competent teachers for high-need schools. It also includes findings from a survey of 30 large school districts about attempts to improve teacher quality, particularly for students who need skilled teachers most.

For this seventh report, Richard M. Ingersoll, an associate professor of education at the University of Pennsylvania, used federal survey data to analyze public school students’ access to well-qualified teachers. That database—the 1999-2000 Schools and Staffing Survey, or SASS—includes a statistically representative sample of teachers across the United States.

In addition, the report includes a first-ever analysis of the working conditions for teachers in high-poverty and high-minority schools, compared with those for their peers nationally, based on the SASS data.

Qualifications Challenge

The newspaper found that states have a long way to go in guaranteeing a “highly qualified” teacher for every classroom, as federal law now requires. Under the “No Child Left Behind” Act of 2001, all teachers in the core subjects must be highly qualified in each subject they teach by the end of the 2005-06 school year.

The law defines “highly qualified” as being fully licensed through traditional or alternative routes and having demonstrated subject-matter competency, generally by having an academic major or its equivalent or by passing a test. Newly hired teachers in schools receiving federal Title I money for disadvantaged students are to have met that standard this school year.

The report found that 24 states provide college scholarships, loans, or other tuition assistance to future teachers, but only seven of them target such programs to candidates committed to working in high-need schools. And while 34 states and the District of Columbia offer retention bonuses to veteran or accomplished teachers, only five of them gear those bonuses toward teachers in high-poverty, high-minority, or low-achieving schools.

“Studies show that when it comes to student achievement, effective teachers are more important than any other school ingredient,” said Virginia B. Edwards, the editor of Quality Counts 2003 and of Education Week. “If states hope to close the achievement gap between minority and nonminority students and those from rich and poor families, they must first close the gap in access to skilled teachers.”

Quality Counts 2003 also updates Education Week‘s report cards on education in the 50 states and the District of Columbia. The report provides updated information for most of the more than 100 indicators used to gauge the health of each state’s education system.