Today's U.S. Education-Lesson Plan: Teacher Quality

 

States are getting tutorials on teacher quality, compliments of the federal government.

Teams headed by the U.S. Department of Education visited seven states and will travel to 15 more by year's end to make sure states meet new federal requirements that"highly qualified" teachers are in classrooms by 2005-2006.

New teacher mandates are part of the sweeping federal education law commonly known as No Child Left Behind that states and school districts are struggling to implement. To be a highly qualified teacher under that federal law, teachers must have a college degree, be licensed by the state and "demonstrate competency," which the state defines. Generally, teachers can show competency by majoring in the subject they teach or by passing a subject-matter test.

"The teams (of federal education experts) are meeting with state officials to offer assistance in any way they can" to meet the teacher quality requirements, U.S. Department of Education spokeswoman Jane Glickman told Stateline.org.

The reason meeting the teacher quality and other aspects of No Child Left Behind is so important is because states risk losing federal education dollars if they miss the mark.

The teams of education experts have already traveled to Oregon, Illinois, Tennessee, Maine, Kansas, Maryland and Alabama and are slated to visit Florida Oct. 24. During the last week of October, Mississippi, Kentucky and Iowa will receive visits from federal teams that U.S. Education Secretary Rod Paige calls the "Teacher Assistance Corps."

On tap for visits during November: Delaware, Virginia, Arizona, Hawaii, Georgia, Alaska, Montana and Colorado. The teams will drop in New York and Wyoming in December and in South Carolina January 2004, according to the department.

States have their work cut out for them. A federal report issued earlier this summer found that only about half of English and math secondary teachers and 55 percent of science and social science secondary teachers are considered "highly qualified."

This isn't the first time the department has made house calls to see how states are faring with the No Child Left Behind law. The department also worked with states to make sure all 50 would meet a June deadline showing how states would measure students' academic progress. The states met that deadline.

All 50 states met a September deadline to report to the U.S. Department of Education about their teacher quality efforts, but 35 states didn't provide all the data that the federal government sought, Glickman said. That's where these teams of "Teacher Assistance Corps" come in. They will work with states to make sure their teacher quality data to the U.S. Department of Education is complete, otherwise, the state could later lose federal education money, Glickman said.

Among other things, the department wants the states to report the percentage of classes that are now being taught by teachers who meet the state's definition of highly qualified. The department also wants the percentage of teachers who are getting help so that they can meet the state definition.

The Associated Press reported this month that Alaska had the lowest percentage of classes that are being taught by teachers who meet the state's "highly qualified" definition, with 16 percent. Wisconsin has the highest percentage, reporting that nearly 99 percent of classes had qualified teachers, according to the AP.

Idaho, Arkansas, Connecticut, Minnesota, Indiana, Massachusetts, Utah, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wyoming reported totals of at least 95 percent, the AP reported. The AP filed a Freedom of Information request to get the information.

 
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