Currently teacher quality is unevenly distributed in our schools. Those schools serving students with the most challenging needs are most likely to have the least qualified and least effective teachers. According to Ronald Ferguson, professor at Harvard University, the greatest in-school factor affecting student performance is the quality of the teacher. Christopher Knaus noted in the National Urban League State of Black America 2007 report that high-poverty schools have three times as many uncertified or out-of-field teachers as low-poverty schools. These schools are more likely to have the least experienced teachers”, the highest teacher turnover rates, the highest percentage of teachers teaching outside of their fields, and often have the highest student-to-teacher ratios.
Though the research is mixed on what characteristics and attributes of teacher quality are critical for high performance, the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 requires that by the end of the 2005-06 school year, every teacher working in a public school must be “highly qualified” --- meaning that a teacher is certified and has demonstrated proficiency in his or her subject matter, by having majored in the subject in college, passing a subject-knowledge test, or obtaining advanced certification in the subject (Education Week, September 21, 2004).
Region II Data
Highly qualified teachers in New York: While 99.1% of teachers in New York’s low-poverty elementary schools meet the criteria for highly qualified teachers, 94.9% of teachers in high-poverty elementary schools are highly qualified – a gap of 4.2 percentage points. The gap is greater (13.2%) in New York’s secondary schools, where 97.1% of teachers in low-poverty secondary schools are highly qualified, compared with only 83.9% of teachers in high-poverty secondary schools (NCES, 2008a). In New York the major reason for classes in core subjects not to be taught by highly qualified teachers is teacher shortages, especially in high need districts and in selected subject areas such as math, science, special education, and bilingual education (New York State Education Department, 2006).
Highly qualified teachers in New Jersey: In New Jersey’s low-poverty elementary schools 98.4% of teachers meet the highly qualified criteria, compared with 97.8% in high-poverty elementary schools – a gap of only .6% percentage points. The gap is somewhat greater (1.9%) in New Jersey’s secondary schools (99.1% in low-poverty secondary schools, 97.2% in high-poverty secondary schools). In New Jersey’s Abbot districts the percentage of core academic classes taught by highly qualified teachers are as follows: Camden, 94.8%; Newark, 91.1%, Trenton, 69.4%; and Union City, 96.6% (Education Law Center, 2006; National Center for Education Statistics, 2008a). New Jersey has the greatest difficulty in recruiting and retaining highly qualified teachers in the areas of special education, bilingual/English as a Second Language, mathematics, and science (Davy & Doolan, 2007).
Highly qualified teachers in Puerto Rico: In 2006, 10% of Puerto Rico’s teachers had not met high quality status (BA or regular certification) and another 20% were veteran teachers who had not completed the HOUSSE procedure and therefore their HQT status was uncertain (U.S. Department of Education, 2008).
Highly qualified teachers in the Virgin Islands: The VI does not report teacher quality data.