ERIC Number: EJ889467
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2005
Reference Count: 14
The Problem of Underqualified Teachers: A Sociological Perspective
Ingersoll, Richard M.
Sociology of Education, v78 n2 p175-178 2005
Few educational problems have received more attention than has the failure to ensure that the nation's classrooms are staffed by qualified teachers. Many states have pushed for more-rigorous preservice teacher education, training, and certification standards. Moreover, a host of recruitment initiatives have attempted to increase the supply of teachers: alternative licensing, midcareer change programs, financial incentives, and even overseas recruitment. The capstone of these efforts was the enactment of the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB), which set the unprecedented, and laudable, goal of ensuring that all students are taught by "highly qualified" teachers. Over the past decade, the author has undertaken a series of research projects that have focused on understanding the problem of underqualified teachers. Although ensuring that the nation's classrooms are all staffed with qualified teachers is among the most important problems facing schools, he has found that it is also among the least understood. He has come to the conclusion that, unfortunately, most teacher-reform efforts will not solve the problem. Underlying many reforms, including NCLB, is what may be called a teacher-deficit perspective. The underlying assumption is that the problem of underqualified teachers is largely one of deficits in teachers themselves: their number, preparation, knowledge, motivation, ability, and so forth. This perspective overlooks a key source of the problem--the organizational and occupational contexts of teachers' work. In particular, the "deficit" perspective overlooks the extent to which the problem of underqualified teachers, like related problems with working conditions, recruitment, and retention in teaching, can be traced to a common root: the low stature and social standing of the teaching occupation. From a sociological perspective, a long-term solution will require addressing the underlying systemic and contextual roots of these organizational practices. From this perspective, organizational practices are directly tied to occupational status, and how members of an occupation are utilized and treated in workplaces is inextricably connected to the power and prestige of that occupation. The misassignment of teachers--and problems with teachers' recruitment, retention, and low pay--are traceable, in large part, to a common root: the low stature and standing of the teaching occupation. Unlike many European and Asian nations, in this country K-12 teaching has been largely treated as semiskilled work. From a sociological perspective, meeting NCLB's mandate of ensuring that all classrooms have qualified teachers will require more than increasing the recruitment and training of teachers. Ultimately, it will require upgrading the status of teaching as an occupation.
Descriptors: Preservice Teacher Education, Teacher Effectiveness, Employment Level, Elementary Secondary Education, Federal Legislation, Incentives, Teacher Qualifications, Educational Change, Teaching (Occupation), Teacher Recruitment, Standards, Social Status, Teacher Persistence, Educational Sociology
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Publication Type: Journal Articles; Opinion Papers
Education Level: Elementary Secondary Education
Authoring Institution: N/A
Identifiers - Laws, Policies, & Programs: No Child Left Behind Act 2001