- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 15, 2003

A shortage of qualified teachers for many years has forced public elementary and secondary schools to have about half their English, science, mathematics, history and foreign-language classes taught by teachers who majored in other subjects, Education Secretary Rod Paige told Congress in a report issued yesterday.

In releasing the report, Mr. Paige said teacher colleges must align their programs with requirements of the federal No Child Left Behind Act of 2001, to meet the mandate for highly qualified teachers in all classrooms by 2006. He also said states must take greater advantage of alternate teacher-licensing programs.

“The first thing we have to do is win the people over who are going to implement the act, the people who are going to make it work,” the secretary told reporters invited to his office to discuss the report.

“It’s a decentralized system. Every state has their own authority to do what they want to do … We’re not going to be the 800-pound gorilla in Washington, D.C. We’re going to be the partners with the states,” Mr. Paige said.

“We’re going to have that level of personalization that knows people in the states personally, talks to them directly eyeball-to-eyeball,” he added.

The report is titled “Meeting the Highly Qualified Teachers Challenge: The Secretary’s Second Annual Report on Teacher Quality.” It states:

• “Only 54 percent of our nation’s secondary teachers were highly qualified during the 1999-2000 school year,” the latest year for complete data from all the states. “These data suggest that out-of-field teaching is a serious problem across the country.”

The report says the term “highly qualified” means having at least a bachelor’s degree, state teacher certification and a major in all fields taught.

• In core subject areas, just 50 percent of English teachers were highly qualified; 47 percent of mathematics teachers; and 55 percent of science and social-studies teachers.

• “Seven states report having more than 10 percent of their teachers on waivers (teaching with emergency, temporary or provisional licenses.)” Maryland had 15 percent of its teacher work force on waivers. Virginia had 8 percent. The report said the District did not report the number of teachers on waivers.

• “The traditional teacher training and state licensure system has been under-producing highly qualified teachers for so long that several states implemented alternative routes to teaching years ago.”

The report cites the American Board for Certification of Teacher Excellence (ABCTE), California’s Technology to Teachers program, New York City’s Teaching Fellows program, Western Governors University Teachers College, the Teach for America program in New York City, and Fairfax County’s Transition to Teaching Partnership as the most promising alternative models for teacher credentialing.

“The best of these programs set high admission standards, recruit people from all fields and provide rich school-based training that corresponds to state academic standards,” the report says.

The District joins just nine states that have not approved alternative routes to teacher certification. Also, the District does not require teachers to have majored in college in the subjects they teach, or tie certification to student performance standards.

The report names Virginia and California as states with the highest standards for content-based teacher certification.

Mr. Paige also said he regrets the vocal opposition of the National Education Association, the 2-million-member teachers union, to the No Child Left Behind Act. The NEA says it is preparing a lawsuit against the law on grounds Congress has not funded it adequately.

“There are those who are going to be a little resistant here with the highly qualified teachers [requirements],” Mr. Paige said. “They are going to be the ones making the noise. But if you look behind them, there are tons of people who want children to learn and who are working hard to get that done. But the ones you are going to see and hear from are the ones who are kind of guarding the status quo and who have other reasons to argue about this.”

Mr. Paige said the department is forming a Teacher Assistance Corps to travel throughout the country and help develop a teacher quality tool kit so people can understand the law.

“This does not work unless the teachers are good. The big difference between this and what’s happened in the past, we know the teachers are the key to this whole thing,” he said.

“What we’re requiring is that students learn … And the reason we’re requiring this is because this nation cannot continue going this way [with added billions of dollars of federal spending] unless we elevate the level of our public school performance.”

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