Study: Teachers teaching what they don’t know

Too many teachers are teaching a subject they know little about, according to a damning report on the ability of schools to prepare kids for careers. It leads to an obvious question, “how are kids going to learn from teachers who don’t know the subject?”

The study, from Richard M. Ingersoll of the University of Pennsylvania, was sponsored by The Education Trust, described as a “child advocacy organization.” It was based on 2003-04 statistics.

Among the findings:

* In high-poverty schools, two in five math classes have teachers without a college major or certification in math.

* In schools with a greater share of African-American and Latino children, nearly one in three math classes is taught by such a teacher.

Perhaps this goes a long way toward explaining why an average 15-year-old in the U.S. is behind the average 15-year-old in 21 industrialized countries in math.

The problem of unqualified teachers was one of the targets of the No Child Left Behind Law, but it was overshadowed by criticism over the NCLB mandate for standardized testing. It required teachers to be “highly qualified,” but left it to the states to determine what “highly qualified” means.

The report said Minnesota classes are taught by highly qualified teachers 98.4% of the time. But teachers reported they were “in-field qualified” only 88.9% of the time. Still, only Rhode Island and Indiana had higher percentages.

Here’s the full report.