[15] NCLB defines a highly qualified elementary or secondary school teacher as someone who holds a bachelor's degree and full state-approved teaching certificate or license (excluding emergency, temporary, and provisional certificates) and who demonstrates subject-matter competency in each academic subject taught by having an undergraduate or graduate major or its equivalent in the subject; passing a test on the subject; holding an advanced teaching certificate in the subject; or meeting some other state-approved criteria. NCLB requires that new elementary school teachers must pass tests in subject-matter knowledge and teaching skills in mathematics, reading, writing, and other areas of the basic elementary school curriculum. New middle and high school teachers either must pass a rigorous state test in each academic subject they teach or have the equivalent of an undergraduate or graduate major or advanced certification in their fields.

[16] Teacher quality can include many characteristics that are not discussed here, such as teachers' commitment to the profession; sense of responsibility for student learning; and ability to motivate students, manage classroom behavior, maximize instructional time, and diagnose and remedy students' learning difficulties (Goldhaber and Anthony 2004; McCaffrey et al. 2003; Rice 2003). These characteristics are rarely examined in nationally representative surveys because they are difficult and costly to measure.

[17] Research on how elementary school teachers are prepared to teach mathematics and science is emerging but limited (National Research Council 2007). Based on an extensive literature review on science education, the National Research Council (2007) concludes that K–8 teachers had limited training in science education and insufficient knowledge of science. However, some evidence suggests that K–5 teachers are confident about their ability to teach their subjects including mathematics and science (Weiss et al. 2003). Much more research is needed to increase understanding about elementary teacher preparation for teaching mathematics and science.

[18] To simplify the discussion, schools in which 10% or fewer of the students were eligible for the federal free and reduced-price lunch program are called low-poverty schools; and schools in which more than 50% of the students were eligible are called high-poverty schools. Similarly, low-minority schools are those in which 5% or fewer of the students were members of a minority, and high-minority schools are those in which more than 45% of the students were members of a minority.

[19] In general, probationary certification is awarded to those who have completed all the requirements except for a probationary teaching period. Provisional or temporary certification is awarded to those who still have requirements to meet. Emergency certification is issued to those with insufficient teacher preparation who must complete a regular certification program in order to continue teaching (Henke et al. 1997).

[20] Practice teaching (also called student teaching) offers prospective teachers hands-on classroom experience that allows them to transform the knowledge learned from coursework into teaching exercises in the classroom. Currently, 39 states require public school teachers to complete a minimum of 5 weeks of practice teaching, through either traditional teacher education programs or licensure requirements (Editorial Projects in Education 2006).