Teaching Profession

Teacher Quality Might Be More Elusive Than Cited

By Bess Keller — November 12, 2003 2 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

A study suggests that many states’ own perspectives on how close they are to meeting the federal requirement for a “highly qualified” teacher in every classroom is a little too rosy, and that significant policy changes may be required to meet the goal.

“Meeting NCLB Goals for Highly Qualified Teachers: Estimates by State from Survey Data” is available from the Council of Chief State School Officers. (Requires Adobe’s Acrobat Reader.)

The study from the Council of Chief State School Officers, in Washington, looks at data from a federal survey of 60,000 public school teachers conducted in the 1999-2000 school year to gauge how many teachers in grades 7-12 are highly qualified in the subjects they teach.

Called the Schools and Staffing Survey, it drew on a representative sample of teachers in each state, who were asked to report on whether they held full certification for the subjects they taught and had college majors or the equivalent in those subjects.

Those criteria are the two primarily used to define a highly qualified teacher in the No Child Left Behind Act and were employed in the study to measure how far states had progressed by 2000 in putting such teachers in secondary school classrooms. For each state, the report estimates the percentage of secondary teachers who are fully certified and have majors in their subjects.

Downward Trend

While the states are able, under the law, to establish other criteria that substitute for a college major, tallies of teachers who meet the two primary criteria allow states and subjects to be compared on a roughly equal footing, according to the study.

It is also possible to look at trends in teacher qualifications over time because the same data were collected in the 1993-94 school year, the author, Rolf K. Blank, writes.

Looking at the proxy data, Mr. Blank concludes that “only about two-thirds of secondary teachers in science and math would meet the current NCLB criteria of highly qualified.” The rate is higher in English and particularly social studies, according to the research.

Only Arkansas, Minnesota, and Rhode Island, for instance, had more than 85 percent of their math teachers with both full certification and college majors or minors. In science, just four states—Minnesota, Idaho, Iowa, and New Jersey—had more than 85 percent with those qualifications.

That picture contrasts somewhat with that drawn from data on teachers provided by the states themselves under the federal law. Those figures for all 50 states were made public for the first time last month.

A majority of states said at least four out of five classes in all the core subjects were taught last year by highly qualified teachers. (“States Claim Teachers Are ‘Qualified,’” Oct. 29, 2003.) Some experts observed then that those figures made meeting the federal mandate for teachers seem imminently achievable in most states.

What’s more, the figures from the two federal surveys used by Mr. Blank show that in all four academic subjects, the proportion of highly qualified teachers “did not improve in the majority of states during the 1990s.” The reasons, he writes, may include growth in enrollments, increases in teachers per student, and decreases in class sizes, sometimes mandated under state law.

Given the downward trend for the proportion of teachers with both qualifications, the paper says, “the prospect of states meeting the standard of highly qualified teachers set by NCLB ... appears very difficult to accomplish.” To do so, Mr. Blank adds, most states will need to take significant policy actions.

Events

This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Student Well-Being Webinar
A Whole Child Approach to Supporting Positive Student Behavior 
To improve student behavior, it’s important to look at the root causes. Social-emotional learning may play a preventative role.

A whole child approach can proactively support positive student behaviors.

Join this webinar to learn how.
Content provided by Panorama
Recruitment & Retention Live Online Discussion A Seat at the Table: Why Retaining Education Leaders of Color Is Key for Student Success
Today, in the United States roughly 53 percent of our public school students are young people of color, while approximately 80 percent of the educators who lead their classrooms, schools, and districts are white. Racial
Jobs January 2022 Virtual Career Fair for Teachers and K-12 Staff
Find teaching jobs and other jobs in K-12 education at the EdWeek Top School Jobs virtual career fair.

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Teaching Profession What Happens When Teachers Are Out of Sick Days?
We asked EdWeek's social media followers to share their school policies on COVID-related sick leave. Here’s how they responded. 
Marina Whiteleather
2 min read
Female at desk, suffering from flu symptoms like fever, headache and sore throat at her workplace
iStock/Getty Images Plus
Teaching Profession Explainer: Why Are Chicago Schools, Teachers' Union Fighting?
The issue that caused the most chaos in the roughly 350,000-student district was when and how to revert to remote learning.
3 min read
Members of the Chicago Teachers Union and supporters stage a car caravan protest outside City Hall in the Loop, Wednesday evening, Jan. 5, 2022. Chicago school leaders canceled classes in the nation’s third-largest school district for the second straight day after failing to reach an agreement with the teachers union over remote learning and other COVID-19 safety protocols. (Ashlee Rezin /Chicago Sun-Times via AP)
Teaching Profession Some Teachers Are Running Out of Sick Days, and Administrators Are Hesitant to Help
With a shortage of substitutes and pressure to stay open, administrators are reluctant to extend paid time off for teachers with COVID.
13 min read
Professional male social distancing or self quarantining inside a coronavirus pathogen.
iStock/Getty Images Plus
Teaching Profession Opinion 18 Ways to Improve Teacher Observations
Holding pre- and post-conferences, showing more compassion and less judgment, and organizing peer observations are valuable.
19 min read
Images shows colorful speech bubbles that say "Q," "&," and "A."
iStock/Getty