B. Key Findings - Teacher Quality and Professional Development
The large majority of teachers across the country have been designated as "highly qualified" under NCLB. According to state-reported data for 50 states, 91 percent of classes were taught by highly qualified teachers in 2004-05. Principal and teacher reports provide somewhat lower estimates of the percentage of classes taught by highly qualified teachers. This is partly due to a sizeable percentage of teachers not knowing their "highly qualified" status. For example, 74 percent of teachers reported that they were considered highly qualified under NCLB, 23 percent said they did not know their status, and 2 percent said they were not highly qualified. Special education teachers and secondary mathematics teachers were more likely to report that they were considered not highly qualified under NCLB than were general elementary teachers and secondary English teachers.
- Students in schools that have been identified for improvement were more likely to be taught by teachers who said they were not highly qualified than were students in non-identified schools. For example, only one percent of elementary teachers in non-identified schools said they were considered not highly qualified, compared with 5 percent in schools that were in the first or second year of being identified for improvement, 8 percent in schools in corrective action, and 6 percent of schools in restructuring.
- Among teachers who said they were highly qualified under NCLB, those in high-poverty schools had less experience and were more likely to be teaching out-of-field, compared with their peers in low-poverty schools. For example, 12 percent of highly qualified teachers in high-poverty schools had fewer than three years of teaching experience, compared with 5 percent of highly qualified teachers in low-poverty schools. Similarly highly qualified secondary English and mathematics teachers in high-poverty schools were less likely to have a degree in the field that they teach (41 percent compared with 52 percent in low-poverty schools).
- High-poverty and high minority districts were more likely than other districts to say that competition with other districts was a barrier to attracting highly qualified teachers, and were also more likely to report using financial incentives and alternative certification routes in an effort to overcome these barriers. For example, 29 percent of high-poverty districts and 75 percent of high-minority districts reported using financial incentives, compared with 18 percent of low-poverty districts and 12 percent of low-minority districts.
- Most teachers reported receiving some professional development in reading and math content and instructional strategies, but fewer than one-quarter of the teachers participated in such training for more than 24 hours over the 2003-04 school year and summer. For example, 90 percent of elementary teachers participated in at least one hour of professional development focused on instructional strategies for teaching reading, but only 20 percent participated for more than 24 hours over the 2003-04 school year and summer (see Exhibit 11).
- Teachers in high-poverty schools were more likely to participate in professional development focused on reading and mathematics than were teachers in low-poverty schools. For example, 53 percent of secondary English teachers in high-poverty schools reported participating in professional development focused on in-depth study of topics in reading or English compared with 36 percent of their colleagues in low-poverty schools.