Last week, in his second annual report to Congress, U.S. Secretary of Education Rod Paige wrote that many classrooms in our nation’s schools are being led by teachers without a major or minor in the field in which they teach. In Meeting the Highly Qualified Teachers Challenge, Paige outlined policy changes that states should consider, examined progress that states are making, and provided examples of successful programs already underway throughout the country.
In the report, Secretary Paige noted that only 54 percent of our nation’s secondary school teachers were highly qualified during the 1999-2000 school year, the most recent year for which complete data exists for all the states. In core subject areas, the breakdown is as follows: In English, half of secondary school teachers were uncertified. In math, the figure is 47 percent. Science and social studies fared slightly better at 55 percent.
With the report’s release, Paige announced a series of initiatives designed to assist states and educators in meeting the highly qualified teacher requirements of the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB). As part of one initiative, members of the Teaching Assistance Corps will travel to states and perform on-site reviews, address specific states’ challenges, and clarify any issues that may appear unclear in NCLB. Paige also announced that the Education Department is developing a tool kit that will provide educators with easy-to-understand information on NCLB, as well as information about loan forgiveness and tax credits, such as a $5,000 federal loan forgiveness program for teachers in high-poverty schools or a tax credit for personal expenditures on classroom materials.
Secretary Paige also addressed the central themes of teacher preparation-especially preparation in academic content and expanded opportunities for talented individuals to become teachers-that will be addressed in the reauthorization of the Higher Education Act. In his words, “If NCLB sets the schedule and the destination of teacher quality reform, then a reauthorized Higher Education Act is one important way to get there.”
Near the end of the report, Paige offered a brief description of the federal-state partnership that is needed to ensure that every child has a highly qualified teacher:
This report demonstrates that by exchanging new ideas, by disseminating enlightening research and by spreading news of bold reforms we can both learn from and help one another as we all work toward the same goal. For its part, the Department will continue to team with those who seek to produce high-quality teachers by raising standards and lowering barriers.
Read the full report at: http://www.ed.gov/offices/OPE/News/teacherprep/