Wisconsin officials take pride in being at the top of at least one list nationally when it comes to putting “highly qualified” teachers in classrooms, but Wednesday they found themselves at the bottom of the list when it comes to meeting federal rules for doing exactly that.
U.S. Department of Education officials announced they had rejected as inadequate every one of the responses Wisconsin gave when asked how it was dealing with six general requirements for assuring that every child has a highly qualified teacher.
Wisconsin, Hawaii, Missouri and Utah were designated by the federal department as being at “high risk” of not meeting the teacher quality rules. The four states were ordered to redo their plans by Nov. 1, “including specific steps to ensure that poor and minority children are not taught disproportionately by less qualified teachers.”
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It is a problem that increasingly bedevils school districts around the country. Nationally, the demand for teachers continues to rise in a number of fields, such as physics, math, chemistry and bilingual education. At the same time, a flood of experienced, baby-boomer teachers who entered the profession in the 1960s and 1970s are retiring, and relatively few new teachers are sticking with the profession. One analysis of Education Department data by Richard Ingersoll, an education professor at the University of Pennsylvania, showed that 46% of new teachers leave the profession after only five years.
To help fill vacant teaching slots, a number of states are taking action, passing legislation with incentives to attract, train and retain more teachers. So far this year, 18 states, including Illinois, Connecticut, Virginia and Kansas, have passed measures encouraging teaching, according to the Education Commission of the States, which tracks education policy for state governments. The initiatives ranged from luring teachers out of retirement to offering scholarships to programs that forgive education loans. Tricia Coulter, director of the commission’s Teaching Quality and Leadership Institute, says legislative efforts gained momentum in 2000, with 21 to 42 state measures each year targeting teacher recruitment and retention.