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ERIC Number: ED543217
Record Type: Non-Journal
Publication Date: 2010-Nov
Pages: 6
Abstractor: ERIC
Reference Count: N/A
Not Prepared for Class: High-Poverty Schools Continue to Have Fewer In-Field Teachers
Almy, Sarah; Theokas, Christina
Education Trust
As Secretary of Education from 1993 to 2001, Richard Riley had serious concerns about out-of-field teaching. The practice--which places in core academic classes instructors who have neither certification nor a major in the subject field taught--just didn't make sense to him. Both when he considered what children were getting in the classroom or thought of those overburdened teachers, staying up late every night to keep a chapter ahead of the students, it seemed to him detrimental to have so many schools routinely assigning teachers out of field. Secretary Riley worked hard to convince state and local education leaders to eliminate this widespread practice. He sought advice far and wide, including from visiting education ministers from other developed countries. As he ruefully told many audiences, though, they couldn't provide much help because this vexing practice was so uniquely American that the "foreign translators had no words even to describe it." After Riley left office, the 107th Congress and the new president picked up the mantle. They worried that, while research findings were piling up on the critical importance of high-quality teachers, few states had revisited their requirements for teachers, even after raising their standards for students. Because of these concerns, when Congress reauthorized the Elementary and Secondary Act in 2001, the new No Child Left Behind law required states to make sure all of their teachers were "highly qualified" by 2006--and legislators specifically included in-field assignment at the secondary level as a condition of qualification In addition, the new law addressed the issue in terms of equity: It required that low-income and minority students not be taught disproportionately by teachers teaching out of field. So, it has been nine years since the law passed, and even longer since Secretary Riley declared war on out-of-field teaching. Where are we? According to state reports to the U.S. Department of Education, the attention to teacher qualifications has paid off handsomely. The Department's summary of state-submitted data for 2007-08 indicates that 95 percent of secondary-level core academic classes are now staffed by highly qualified teachers. Unfortunately, the data that comes from teachers themselves tells a different story. An analysis of the most recent data from the U.S. Department of Education's 2007-08 Schools and Staffing Survey (SASS)--based on reports from teachers--indicates that the actual out-of-field rate is three times as high as the--state-reported rate. Many forces work together to hold in place current inequities in who teaches whom, and, as a result, equal access to high-quality teachers won't come about by accident. It also won't come about by only addressing one or even two of those factors. Staffing schools in a way that ensures that all kids have access to strong teachers requires states and school districts to mount strategies that address multiple problems at once. Some states and districts have found ways to begin to change long-standing patterns in teacher access (see sidebar on Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools). What can districts and states do? This paper offers several suggestions. (Contains 4 figures, 1 table, and 11 notes.
Education Trust. 1250 H Street NW Suite 700, Washington, DC 20005. Tel: 202-293-1217; Fax: 202-293-2605; Web site:
Publication Type: Reports - Descriptive
Education Level: Elementary Secondary Education; Secondary Education
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: Education Trust
Identifiers - Location: North Carolina