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WELCOME BACK: Record Numbers of Students and New Federal Regulations Await Teachers and Administrators in New School Year

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"With more information available and heightened awareness, more families will exercise school choice."

For the seventh consecutive year, record numbers of students are expected to enroll in public and private elementary and secondary schools this fall. This year, 53.6 million students, an increase of 197,000, will walk through the double doors of our nation’s schools. In addition to the challenge of educating these students, teachers and administrators must grapple with new requirements mandated by the No Child Left Behind Act.

One of the first challenges many schools will face is providing public school choice. In July, the U.S. Department of Education estimated that more than 8,600 schools, serving as many as 3.5 million students, will have to offer public school choice this fall. However, due to several factors, including already overcrowded schools, lack of timely guidance and parents who aren’t fully aware of their options, the number of students who will actually be able to transfer will be far fewer.

The prevalence of failing schools combined with overcrowding issues often limited the number of transfers available. According to theChicago Tribune, only 29,000 of the city of Chicago’s 124,000 eligible students were offered a chance to transfer. While 2,400 of this total asked to be moved, fewer than 1,200 were ultimately allowed to transfer.

Meanwhile, more than 2,400 families in Colorado Springs, Colo. received notice that their children could transfer to two nearby public schools rather than continuing to attend a school labeled “failing.” However, according to Education Week, less than two percent of qualified students are expected to make this move.

Chicago and Colorado Springs are but two examples of the nationwide reaction to public school choice-either school districts are unable to provide public school choice to all students who qualify, or parents and students hesitate to leave their neighborhood school. U.S. Undersecretary of Education Eugene W. Hickok predicted that larger numbers of students are likely to transfer in the future. “This year is probably a small indicator of what we’re going to see next year,” he told Education Week. “With more information available and heightened awareness, more families will exercise school choice.”

States Struggle to Meet the “Highly Qualified” Challenge

Another challenge many school districts are facing is the “highly qualified” teacher requirement in the No Child Left Behind Act. (See box below.) While schools have until the end of the 2005-06 school year before all teachers must be highly qualified, all newly hired teachers in Title I schools must be highly qualified beginning this fall.

A new report released by Education TrustAll Talk, No Action: Putting an End to Out-of-Field Teaching-suggests that we have a long way to go to meet these requirements. Based on an analysis of data on teacher qualifications and assignments, classes in majority non-white schools are more than 40 percent more likely to be assigned to an out-of-field teacher and classes in high-poverty schools are 77 percent more likely to be taught by out-of-field teachers. Even when qualified teachers are available, disadvantaged schools are far more likely than schools in middle-class communities to assign teachers to teach a subject in which they have little academic preparation.

Although out-of-field teaching is far too common an occurrence at the high school level, the Education Trust report found it to be even more pervasive in middle schools. Nationally, 44 percent of middle-grade core subject classes and nearly 24 percent of high school core classes are taught by someone lacking an undergraduate or graduate major in the field.

Read the complete report

What is a Highly Qualified Teacher?

  • Elementary school teacher:
    • Holds a bachelor’s degree
    • Has demonstrated mastery by passing a rigorous test in reading, writing, math and other areas of the curriculum
  • Middle or High School Teacher:
    • Holds a bachelor’s degree
    • Has demonstrated competency in subject area taught by passing a rigorous state test, or through completion of an academic major, graduate degree, or comparable coursework

 

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