- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 8, 2003

High-poverty schools are less likely to have teachers trained in the subjects they teach than other schools and few states have plans to close the gap a nationwide survey conducted by Education Week magazine shows.
Of students attending high-poverty schools, 32 percent take at least one class with a teacher who did not at least minor in the subject, compared with 18 percent of their counterparts in lower-poverty schools, according to the survey.
Another 26 percent of students in high-poverty schools have a teacher who is not certified in the subject he or she teaches, compared with 13 percent in lower-poverty schools, the survey concluded.
High-poverty schools are defined as those in which at least half the students qualify for subsidized school meals.
"Studies show that when it comes to student achievement, effective teachers are more important than any other school ingredient," said Virginia Edwards, the editor of the survey and Education Week. "If states hope to close the achievement gap between minority and non-minority students and those from rich and poor families, they must first close the gap in access to skilled teachers."
States have a long way to go in guaranteeing a highly qualified teacher for every classroom, according to the survey.
Schools in Virginia, Maryland and the District received a grade of "C" for efforts to improve teacher quality, especially in high-poverty schools.
South Carolina received a "B-plus," the highest score, mostly for paying for certification courses and providing salary supplements for each of the 10 years their national certification lasts.
Alaska, Arizona, Iowa, North Dakota, Oregon and Wyoming posted a "D-minus."
Local school officials said yesterday they were making strides with what they call a "serious situation."
"It's part of a very difficult problem," said Bill Reinhard, a spokesman for the Maryland State Board of Education. "There are so many of these schools. It's not just schools in Prince George's County or Baltimore that are experiencing a shortage. It's every school district."
Charles Pyle, a spokesman for the Virginia Department of Education, said the state last fall received a $13.5 million federal grant to develop and implement strategies to train and retain high-quality teachers. Some of the money will go toward creating recruitment and training programs in high-poverty areas.
The federal No Child Left Behind Act requires all teachers in core subjects to be "highly qualified" in each subject taught by the end of the 2005-06 school year. The law defines "highly qualified" as being licensed through traditional or alternative means and either majoring in the subject taught or passing a subject-matter test.
The survey also polled 30 school districts nationwide about initiatives taken to improve teacher quality in high-poverty schools. While many states and districts have implemented policies to attract and retain highly skilled teachers, the survey found few of those initiatives focused on matching well-qualified teachers with high-poverty schools.
Although 10 districts offer college loans and scholarships to entice candidates to the teaching profession, only two Charlotte-Mecklenburg, N.C. and New York City offer such help to teachers who want to work in high-poverty schools. The survey also found while 20 districts offer retention bonuses to skilled or veteran teachers, only seven target the bonuses to those working in high-poverty schools.
Also, nine of the 30 districts use salary-based incentives to attract teachers. Of those, three Baltimore, New York City and Charlotte-Mecklenburg, N.C. provide those incentives to teachers who want to teach at high-need schools, the study found.

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