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STATES REPORT NUMBER OF HIGHLY QUALIFIED TEACHERS: State Officials Admit Guesswork in Reporting Data

In September, 33 states reported that over 75 percent of their core classes were being taught by “highly qualified” teachers as defined in the No Child Left Behind Act. Of these, 12 states reported highly qualified teachers in more than 95 percent of classes. Surprisingly, 28 states said that the percentage of highly qualified teachers in high-poverty schools vis-à-vis low-poverty schools was about the same.

According to Education Week, some state officials admitted to a certain amount of guesswork when they compiled data for the U.S. Department of Education. Eleven states did not provide any statistics at all. Even more confusing were the comparable percentages between the number of highly qualified teachers in high-poverty schools compared to the rest of schools. Only eight states reported differences of greater than 5 percentage points. These results have led some observers to question the integrity of the data. The numbers are even more puzzling given that past research has indicated that nationally, classes in high-poverty secondary schools are 77 percent more likely to be assigned an “out-of-field” teacher-a teacher without experience in the subject they will teach-than classes in low-poverty schools, according to All Talk, No Action: Putting an End to Out-of-Field Teaching by C. Jerald and R. Ingersoll.

Among those states reporting, Wisconsin had the largest percentage of classes that were taught by highly qualified teachers (98.6 percent) and Wyoming had the highest percentage of highly qualified teachers in high-poverty schools (99 percent). The lowest rate was reported by Alaska, with 16 percent of all classes being taught by a highly qualified teacher.

Part of the disconnect between the data and the established research on the subject could be explained by the fact that some states have yet to determine how they will assess subject matter competence, particularly among veteran teachers. Under NCLB, when the term “highly qualified” is used with respect to teachers who are not new to the profession, it means that they hold at least a bachelor’s degree and have met one of two requirements:

  • passed a rigorous state academic subject test or hold a major in the field in which they teach; or
  • demonstrated competence in subjects in which they teach based on a “high objective uniform state standard of evaluation” (HOUSSE)

The specifics of HOUSSE are up to individual states and, in some cases, have not been set. Veteran teachers in these states have yet to be assessed.

As part of NCLB, states had to report the percentage of highly qualified teachers teaching in core subjects-English, math, science, foreign languages, social studies, and the arts-to the U.S. Department of Education. While the department did not plan on releasing this information until spring 2004, as part of Secretary Rod Paige’s report to Congress, several news organizations and Education Week were able to obtain the data through the Freedom of Information Act.

“States Claim Teachers Are ‘Qualified'”:

High-Poverty Schools Hire More Certified Teachers, but Teacher Retention Still a Problem

The tight job market and new hiring practices such as alternative certification have allowed high-poverty school districts to hire more certified teachers, according to a recent Education Week article. In Los Angeles, the article reports, “fewer than 6 percent of this fall’s newly hired teachers have had licensure requirements waived or have not yet reached ‘intern’ status, compared with 51 percent in 2001.” In Philadelphia, only 4 percent of the city’s new teachers are working with emergency permits, and all 9,000 of New York City’s newly hired teachers are state certified. While a state licensure does not necessarily mean that a teacher is “highly qualified” under No Child Left Behind, it is certainly a step in the right direction.

However, despite their success with recent new teacher hires, many school districts, especially in high-poverty areas, worry that they will have a hard time retaining their highly qualified teachers. Research has shown that teachers who do end up in high-poverty schools often don’t stay long, creating a “hole in the bucket” that recruiters must try desperately to fill. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, beginning teachers leave the profession at rates five times higher than those of their more experienced colleagues. Because of this, helping new teachers become veteran teachers is an important step in addressing teacher shortages.

In New-Teacher Excellence, the Alliance recommended that schools and districts provide well-organized induction programs for all beginning teachers. These programs allow schools and districts to hire, keep, and professionally develop new teachers who both meet their state’s definition of “qualified” and majored in the subject they will teach, regardless of whether they were trained in a traditional or alternative teacher preparation program before they began teaching.

In addition, many schools are still struggling to find qualified teachers to fill shortages in science, mathematics, and special education classes. At the federal level, the Teacher Recruitment and Retention Act, H.R. 438, sponsored by Rep. Joe Wilson (R-SC) and passed by the House of Representatives, would build on the current $5,000 loan-forgiveness provision in the Higher Education Act and would increase college loan forgiveness to up to $17,500 for every reading, math, science, and special education teacher who teaches for five years in a Title I school (those schools with a poverty rate over 40 percent). A similar bill was introduced in the U.S. Senate by Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), but it has yet to see action.

“City Schools Report Progress On Hiring Certified Teachers”:


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