The Latest on States’ ‘Highly Qualified’ Teacher Counts

By Stephen Sawchuk — August 13, 2009 1 min read
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The Education Department has some important data up on states’ progress meeting the “highly qualified” teacher requirements of the No Child Left Behind law, as well as on how districts are spending their Title II dollars. (Title II is the main funding stream for supporting teacher quality.)

According to the most recent figures, from the 2007-08 school year, 95 percent of all core academic classes are taught by highly qualified teachers, meaning they are fully certified, have demonstrated subject-matter competency, and hold at least a bachelor’s degree. North Dakota remains the only state to have 100%, but more than a dozen states—Arkansas, Connecticut, Illinois, Iowa, Kentucky, Michigan, Montana, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Ohio, Oklahoma, Texas, Washington, and Wisconsin—are at the 99 percent mark.

High-poverty schools are still less likely to have HQTs, especially at the secondary level, where 89.6 percent of core classes are taught by such teachers compared with 96 percent of core classes at low-poverty schools.

Because these are national figures, they tend to mask as much as they reveal. For instance, the gap between high-poverty and low-poverty schools in Maryland is 30 percentage points. A couple of remote states, such as Alaska and Hawaii, still have problems getting highly qualified teachers, probably because of a combination of not producing enough in-state and not being able to attract others to teach.

In 2008-09, districts (which receive the lion’s share of Title II funds) spent 39 percent on professional development and 38 percent to reduce class sizes. That’s quite a change from last year, when 50 percent was spent on professional development and only 27 percent on class-size reduction.

It’s possible that some of the shift toward class size was done to keep teachers from losing their jobs in the economic downturn. But the class-size-reduction data are troubling when you consider that not all of the money is being spent in alignment with the research, which has found benefits only for the early grades. According to the ED data, just 61 percent of teachers hired to reduce class sizes were in grades K-3.

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A version of this news article first appeared in the Teacher Beat blog.