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NCES RELEASES 2005 CONDITION OF EDUCATION: Report Includes Special Analysis of Teacher Workforce and Teacher Mobility

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"We want to ensure that students are empowered with the math and reading skills they will need to succeed in college and compete for jobs."

Public elementary and secondary enrollment reached an estimated 48.3 million in 2004 and is projected to increase to an all-time high of 50 million in 2014, according to a report from the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES). The Condition of Education is an annual, congressionally mandated report that serves as a one-stop shop for education statistics. While it contains little new information, the report effectively summarizes important developments and trends in education. This year’s version also contains a special analysis that describes the teacher workforce and the movement of teachers into and out of this workforce.

According to the report, the percentage of minority public school students increased from 22 percent in 1972 to 42 percent in 2003, primarily due to growth in Hispanic enrollments. In addition, the number of children ages five to seventeen who spoke a language other than English at home more than doubled between 1979 and 2003.

“These trends illustrate why we are focusing so much time and energy on closing the achievement gap that exists between groups of students,” U.S. Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings said. “We want to ensure that students are empowered with the math and reading skills they will need to succeed in college and compete for jobs.”

According to the report, while some progress has been made in mathematics, scores in reading continue to lag. Citing statistics from the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), the report noted that the mathematics performance of fourth and eighth graders improved steadily from 1990 to 2003, but reading scores stagnated. Students in large central city public schools continued to lag behind their peers, with reading and mathematics scores that were lower on average than those of students in rural or suburban areas.

In its analysis of teacher data for the 1999-2000 school year, the NCES report said that a total of about 3,450,000 teachers worked in public and private elementary and secondary schools across the country and represented about 2.7 percent of the overall U.S. workforce that year. As shown in the chart below, schools had to replace a larger percentage of teachers at the start of the 1999-2000 school year-546,000-than at the start of any of three other years that were surveyed. This number represents the number of teachers who transferred to another school plus the “leavers”-teachers who left the profession altogether. The chart also includes a breakdown of why individuals left the teaching profession. Both teachers who left teaching and teachers who transferred at the end of 1999-2000 reported a lack of planning time, too heavy a workload, too low a salary, and problematic student behavior among their top five sources of dissatisfaction with the school they left.

Number and Percentage of Public and Private K-12 Teachers Who Did Not Teach in the Same School the Following Year, by Turnover Categories

Turnover Categories
1987-88
Number Percent

1990-91

Number Percent
1993-94
Number Percent
1999-2000
Number Percent
Transfers at the end of the year
218,000
8%
209,000
7%
205,000
7%
269,000
8%
Leavers
173,000
6%
174,000
6%
213,000
7%
278,000
8%
Retired
35,000
1%
46,000
2%
48,000
2%
66,000
2%
Took other job
64,000
2%
56,000
2%
90,000
3%
126,000
4%
Went back to school
11,000
<1%
13,000
<1%
8,000
<1%
12,000
<1%
Left for family reasons
48,000
2%
33,000
1%
35,000
1%
47,000
1%
Other
14,000
1%
25,000
1%
30,000
1%
26,000
1%
Total turnover at the end of the year
391,000
14%
383,000
13%
418,000
14%
546,000
16%

NOTE: All numbers are estimates with confidence intervals varying from ± 2,000 to ± 34,000. Denominator used to calculate the percentage is the total number of teachers in the workforce during the year. Detail may not sum to totals because of rounding.
SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, Condition of Education 2005

According to the report, approximately 17 percent of the total teacher workforce were new hires at their schools at the beginning of the 1999-2000 school year. However, only a relatively small percentage of the workforce-about 4 percent-were “brand-new teachers,” individuals direct from college or from other fields who decided to try their hand at teaching. The other 13 percent were experienced teachers who were transferring from one school to another.

Using this information, the report noted that increased teacher turnover “does not necessarily mean that there will be greater proportions of inexperienced teachers in the classroom.” Given the small percentage of the total teacher workforce that brand-new teachers represent (4 percent), the report also said that, absent a “major change in the dynamics of the workforce, attempts to improve the supply of new teachers can effect only small changes in the teacher workforce each year.”

In 1999-2000, among all teachers at all grade levels, an average of 12 percent were teaching out-of-field, meaning that they had neither an undergraduate or graduate major nor certification in the field of their main teaching assignment. Middle schools were most likely to have teachers leading a class outside their field. Among public middle school teachers, 8 percent of social science teachers, 11 percent of English teachers, 13 percent of science teachers, and 18 percent of mathematics teachers were teaching out-of-field. Among public high school teachers, the numbers were much lower: 2 percent of social science teachers, 2 percent of English teachers, 3 percent of science teachers, and 5 percent of mathematics teachers were teaching out-of-field.

The complete report is available at http://nces.ed.gov/programs/coe/.

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