Original URL: http://www.azstarnet.com/star/tue/31021nteacherquality.html

Quality of classroom teachers varies widely as states report
October 21, 2003

WASHINGTON - Challenged to get top teachers in all core classes, states are reporting widely varying starting points, from a low in Alaska to near perfection in Wisconsin.

The states, under new federal law, must make public the percentage of classes taught by "highly qualified teachers" - that is, teachers who have a bachelor's degree, state certification and demonstrated mastery of every subject they teach.

All states must use that framework, which means the figures - released in response to a Freedom of Information request from The Associated Press - present the first benchmark of the country's teaching corps under the 2002 law.

Still, national comparisons are imperfect because states set their own standards for licensing and subject mastery by veteran teachers.

On the low end in the new figures: Alaska, which reported that just 16 percent of its public school classes were taught by highly qualified teachers. Two other states reported that less than half of their classes made the mark: Alabama, at 35 percent, and California, at 48 percent.

Wisconsin reported that almost 99 percent of classes had top teachers, and Idaho, Arkansas, Connecticut, Minnesota, Indiana, Massachusetts, Utah, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Kentucky and Wyoming reported totals of at least 95 percent.

Arizona reported that 70.8 percent of its classes had highly qualified teachers.

By the end of the 2005-06 school year, all teachers of subjects from English to arts must be highly qualified, a mission aimed at helping poor and minority students.

Overall, 39 states and the District of Columbia reported data, and most said that at least eight in 10 teachers were already highly qualified.

The 11 states that did not report information were required to do so as a condition of receiving federal money this month.

Several states indicated problems in coming up with the figures in the way the U.S. Education Department wanted: percentage of classes taught by highly qualified teachers, not the percentage of top teachers.

The distinction is meant to expose situations in which teachers qualified in one subject are assigned to teach classes outside the field they know.