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With the passage of No Child Left Behind, the Administration has made a commitment to assure that every child has a highly qualified teacher in his or her classroom. In order to support teachers, Title II of the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 provides grants to State and local educational agencies to improve teacher and principal quality and increase the number of highly qualified teachers in the classroom and highly qualified principals and assistant principals in schools.

  • The Department's Teacher/Principal Quality webpage contains information on the law and areas of flexibility recently announced by the Secretary.
  • Read guidance [downloadable files] MS WORD (1,104K) issued by the Department that addresses how the teacher quality provisions included in No Child Left Behind apply to career and technical education teachers.
  • The Department has sections of ED.gov dedicated to the interests of teachers and administrators.

Research consistently shows that teacher quality is among the most important contributors to student achievement. A recent report released by The Education Trust indicates that the most effective teachers are producing not just a little growth, but as many as six times the learning gains produced by the least effective teachers. Moreover, these effects accumulate over the grade levels, with initially similar-achieving students separated by as many as 50 percentile points three years later based solely on the quality of the teachers to which they were assigned. (Good Teaching Matters: How Well-Qualified Teachers Can Close the Gap, The Education Trust, 1998)

Despite the importance of good teaching, many students-particularly those from economically disadvantaged backgrounds-are taught by teachers lacking sufficient qualifications and experience. A separate report by The Education Trust indicates that children in high-poverty schools are almost twice as likely as other students to have teachers lacking a major or minor in the subject they are teaching and having three or fewer years of teaching experience. (New Frontiers for a New Century, Spring 2001, The Education Trust)

Current national data suggest that teacher quality will be of growing concern in the coming years (from Eliminating Barriers to Improving Teaching [downloadable files] MS WORD (196K)):

  • 30 percent of new public school teachers are hired without full certification, and at least 43 states report that they grant waivers to hire teachers who are not fully certified.
  • Minority teachers comprise only 13 percent of the teaching force, although minority students comprise 36 percent of the student population.
  • 85 percent of teachers report receiving less than eight hours a year of professional development, and, of the newest teachers, only 44 percent report participating in formal first-year mentoring programs.
  • Less than half (42%) of college graduates who prepared for teaching apply for a teaching job within four years, and 22 percent of new public teachers leave the profession in the first three years.

Noteworthy Practices

Community leaders, administrators and educators themselves are working to improve the quality of teaching.

  • He's Got Your Number (Education Week, 2000)
    Profiles William Sanders and Value-Added Assessment as a measurement of teacher quality. Shows how Sanders was able to demonstrate that teacher quality affects student achievement in Tennessee schools. Includes links to additional resources. (Requires free registration)

  • Boston Teacher Residency
    A teacher preparation program for urban teachers where Teacher Residents are placed with a Master Teacher for a full school year. The program is "[m]odeled after medical residencies in which practical training in hospitals is valued as highly as rigorous academic coursework."

  • Growing Better Teachers in the Garden State
    In 1984, New Jersey developed an alternative route to teacher certification to improve the quality of its teaching corps. According to this analysis by the Fordham Foundation, the program has "markedly expanded the quality, diversity, and size of the state's teacher candidate pool."

  • Teacher Advancement Program (Milken Family Foundation)
    Program to draw more talented people into the teaching profession, featuring five principles: (1) multiple career paths; (2) market-driven results; (3) performance-based accountability; (4) ongoing, applied professional growth; and (5) expanding the supply.


Please email HighSchools@ed.gov with your questions or comments regarding the Department's High School Initiative.

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Last Modified: 08/13/2008