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Federal Definition Declares Half of Nation's Middle and High Schooll Teachers Not Qualified

WASHINGTON -- Nearly half of the nation's middle and high school teachers were not highly qualified to teach their topics in 2000, a report to Congress says.

Federal law defines highly qualified teachers as those who hold a bachelor's degree from a four-year college, have state certification and demonstrate competence in the subject they teach.

The 2002 law requires that by the school year beginning in 2005, there must be highly qualified teachers in every class for core subjects, including English, math, science and history.

Meeting that deadline is "going to be challenging. It's going to be tough," Education Secretary Rod Paige said Tuesday. "But it's necessary, and it's going to be done."

Department officials used the federal definition as a guide in their report to assess teacher qualifications from the 1999-2000 school year.

Only 54 percent of secondary teachers were highly qualified, the report said.

Other figures ranged from 47 percent for math teachers to 55 percent for science and social studies teachers.

Paige said his department will develop a "tool kit" of information to clarify what's required under No Child Left Behind, the reform of elementary and secondary education that President Bush signed in 2002.

He said teams of educators and researchers also will visit states and provide help as requested by local officials.

The law aims to raise the academic standards of teachers -- newcomers and veterans -- and to make it easier for people with expertise in given fields to become teachers.

Making sure the teacher-quality changes work is the next big push for federal education officials.

At a briefing, they defended the 18-month-old law, sensitive to claims that schools face unrealistic demands and good teachers will be forced out.

The country's largest teachers union, the National Education Association, plans to sue over the law.

The union claims the federal government broke a promise to states that they won't have to pay for any required changes, such as expanded student testing.

Paige told reporters that the law is sufficiently paid for, and that the union view does not reflect those of many teachers.

He said his agency would try to reach out to the NEA, and that he believed the union's position would change over time.

"Are we going to be deterred because they're making noise like that?" Paige said. "You can believe that we are not."

— Ben Feller
Many U.S. teachers don't know their stuff, Congress report says
Houston Chronicle
July 16, 2003


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