States’ Teacher Quality Reports Unacceptable: Study

Published October 1, 2006

In early August the Education Trust, a Washington DC-based education advocacy organization, criticized the 2006 teacher equity plans submitted by states and the District of Columbia under the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB), because all but three states failed to collect the required data.

Missing the Mark: An Education Trust Analysis of Teacher-Equity Plans, by Heather G. Peske, Candace Crawford, and Brian Pick, revealed 47 states didn’t measure the distribution of unqualified, inexperienced, and out-of-field educators teaching poor and minority students.

Only two states–Nevada and Ohio–provided both the requisite data and plans to decrease the number of new and unqualified teachers in classrooms of high-need students.

On August 16, the U.S. Department of Education issued recommendations to the states regarding their teacher quality plans, noting 41 states did not meet all of the agency’s criteria. The Education Trust maintains the department should give the states additional guidance.

“There are great variations in the state plans, and most have no data on the distribution of inexperienced teachers among poor and minority students,” said Peske, Education Trust senior associate and lead analyst on the project. Although the Department of Education deserves credit for requiring states to comply with the equity requirements they ignored, she said, the agency should require states to provide all the data mandated by law.

The Department of Education gave the states a September 29 deadline for submitting revised plans.

Data Collection

Under NCLB, states must meet several teacher quality criteria, including:

  • All teachers must be “highly qualified”–i.e., have a bachelor’s degree, state certification, and proof of subject-level mastery.
  • A state must specify steps it will take to ensure schools serving low-income students have highly qualified teachers.
  • States must provide a plan to “ensure that poor and minority children are not taught at higher rates than other children by inexperienced, unqualified, or out-of-field teachers,” and also to detail “the measures that the State educational agency will use to evaluate and publicly report the progress of the State educational agency with respect to such steps.”

According to the Education Trust report, most states did not collect data for all four components of the law, particularly regarding whether low-income students are more likely to be taught by unqualified, inexperienced, or out-of-field teachers than their wealthier peers.

The paper concluded all but three states–Nevada, Ohio, and Tennessee–did not report on all four components. Thirty-four states collected data on one area of analysis. Four states have yet to submit a plan. Twenty-seven states claimed they complied by ensuring everyone in their teaching forces has a bachelor’s degree, state certification, and proof of subject-level mastery, but did not address the other teacher quality components.

Inexperienced Teachers

The Education Trust stated merely meeting the “highly qualified” requirements “misses the mark” because “it ignores inequity in the distribution of inexperienced teachers,” those in their first or second year.

The report contends such teachers are not as effective as more experienced ones. Students perform better in schools with a balanced mix of new and seasoned teachers, the report found. Too often, however, schools serving low-income and minority students receive a greater proportion of inexperienced, out-of-field, and unqualified teachers than their more advantaged peers, putting them at an even greater disadvantage.

Five Recommendations

The Education Trust makes five recommendations in the report:

  • The U.S. Department of Education should reject most of the plans and issue explicit guidance on the type of data, analysis, and planning the law requires.
  • States should include advocates for low-income and minority communities in the planning process, set clear, measurable goals for improvement, and provide a process for public reporting.
  • The Education Secretary should establish a new position at the Department of Education to focus on these issues.
  • The department should withhold administrative funds in cases of noncompliance.
  • States should upgrade their data systems to calculate equity analysis.

‘Guinea Pigs’

“The Education Trust report only looked at one aspect of teacher quality, and we made our determinations on the entirety of the state plans. [The Education Trust is] free to make recommendations, but we are charged with enforcing the law,” said U.S. Department of Education spokesman Chad Colby.

“We have a lot of commonality with the Education Trust,” Colby said. “We need to do more from federal and state government down to the school level. We know that getting a highly qualified teacher in front of students with the most need is the most effective way to raise achievement.”

Said Michael J. Petrilli, vice president for national programs and policy at the Thomas B. Fordham Foundation, an education reform group based in Washington, DC, “On the one hand, this is exactly the type of paperwork exercise that has made NCLB a four-letter word in many circles. But at the same time, the NCLB requirement to close the ‘teacher quality gap’ and Education Trust’s advocacy on its behalf is forcing a long-overdue conversation.

“It’s quite simple,” Petrilli concluded. “Poor and minority students should not be used as guinea pigs every year for first-year teachers or for ‘lemons’ that the more affluent schools don’t want.”

Krista Kafer ([email protected]) is a freelance writer in Denver, Colorado.

For more information …

“Missing the Mark: An Education Trust Analysis of Teacher-Equity Plans,” by Heather G. Peske, Candace Crawford, and Brian Pick, is available through PolicyBot™, The Heartland Institute’s free online research database. Point your Web browser to, click on the PolicyBot™ button, and search for document #19704.