Among the many factors that influence student learning, teacher quality is crucial. To ensure that all classrooms are led by high-quality teachers, NCLB mandated that schools and districts hire only highly qualified teachers, defining "highly qualified" as having state certification, a minimum of a bachelor's degree, and demonstrated subject area competence. Teaching quality has remained in the national spotlight. The Race to the Top program, a component of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, called for applications from states to compete for more than $4 billion for education innovation and reform, including recruitment, professional development, compensation, and retention of effective teachers. Salaries, working conditions, and opportunities for professional development contribute to keeping teachers in the profession and the best teachers in the classroom (Berry, Smylie, and Fuller 2008; Brill and McCartney 2008; Hanushek and Rivkin 2007; Ingersoll and May 2010).
This section presents indicators of public school mathematics and science teachers' preparation, experience, professional development, salaries, and working conditions. It focuses on middle and high school teachers, as mathematics and science teachers are more common and more easily identified at these levels than at the elementary level. The primary data source is the 2007–08 SASS; comparable data from earlier SASS collections are also used to examine changes over time. The section refers to 2007 and 2003 to indicate the academic years 2007–08 and 2003–04. When possible, measures are analyzed separately for schools with differing concentrations of minority and low-income students.
To provide context, U.S. public school teachers numbered about 3.4 million in 2007 (appendix table
The effects of good teachers on student achievement have been well documented (Boyd et al. 2008; Clotfelter, Ladd, and Vigdor 2007; Goe 2008; Guarino, Santibanez, and Daley 2006; Harris and Sass 2007), but the specific teacher characteristics that contribute to student success are less clear (see sidebar "Measuring Teaching Quality"). Some studies have cast doubt on whether commonly measured indicators, such as teachers' licensure scores or the selectivity of their undergraduate institutions, are related to teaching effectiveness (Boyd et al. 2006; Buddin and Zamarro 2009a, 2009b; Hanushek and Rivkin 2006). This section reports on indicators such as public school mathematics and science teachers' educational attainment, professional certification, participation in practice teaching, self-assessment of preparation, and years of experience. Although these are not the only characteristics that contribute to teacher effectiveness, they are more easily measured than such other characteristics as teachers' abilities to motivate students, manage the classroom, maximize instruction time, and diagnose and overcome students' learning difficulties.
Virtually all mathematics and science teachers at public middle and high schools held at least a bachelor's degree in 2007, and more than half had earned an advanced degree (e.g., master's degree, education specialist, certificate of advanced graduate studies, doctorate, professional degree) (appendix table
Teachers with advanced degrees are not evenly distributed across schools, however. Proportionately more mathematics and science teachers in low-poverty and low-minority schools held master's degrees than did their peers in high-poverty and high-minority schools. For example, in 2007–08, 61% of science teachers in low-poverty schools had earned a master's degree, compared with 41% of those in high-poverty schools.
The traditional path to becoming a teacher begins in an undergraduate education program, where future teachers earn a bachelor's or master's degree and full teaching certification prior to beginning to teach. In recent years, a growing proportion of new teachers have entered the profession through an alternative pathway, usually a program that recruits college graduates from other fields or mid-career professionals in non-teaching careers. These teachers often begin to teach with probationary or temporary certification while they work toward regular certification during the first few years of their teaching careers. Regardless of their pathway into the profession, all public school teachers must have some type of state certification to teach.
State Certification. Teacher certification refers to a license required by the state of all practicing teachers; requirements vary by state but typically include completing a bachelor's degree, completing a period of practice teaching, and passing a formal test (Editorial Projects in Education Research Center 2010). Most states require high school teachers of mathematics and science to have a degree or certificate in their subject area. At the middle school level, some states allow general education preparation and others require subject area preparation for mathematics and science teachers (Greenberg and Walsh 2008). Differences in state standards and requirements for certification complicate measurement of the impact of teachers' credentials on student outcomes; nevertheless, some studies suggest that holding a regular or advanced certification is associated with student achievement (Clotfelter, Ladd, and Vigdor 2007; Easton-Brooks and Davis 2009; Klecker 2008; Subedi, Swan, and Hynes 2010).
In 2007, 87% of public middle and high school mathematics and science teachers were fully certified (i.e., held regular or advanced state certification) (table
Fully certified mathematics and science teachers were more prevalent in low-minority schools (92% of mathematics and 93% of science teachers) than in high-minority schools (84% of mathematics and 83% of science teachers) (appendix table
Alternative Entry into the Teaching Profession. Rather than completing traditional undergraduate programs in education, some teachers enter teaching through alternative programs such as Teach for America, The New Teacher Project, and other programs administered by states, districts, universities, and other organizations to expedite the transition of nonteachers into teaching. Although these programs have expanded in recent years, researchers have observed few systematic differences in the training received by aspiring teachers in traditional versus alternative pathways (Humphrey, Weschler, and Hough 2008; NRC 2010; Zeichner and Conklin 2005). Much of the formal training for teachers in both traditional and alternative programs takes place in university schools of education (Walsh and Jacobs 2007); according to SASS, however, a significantly smaller proportion of alternative-pathway teachers participated in practice teaching prior to beginning teaching (see "Practice Teaching" section). Some characteristics of teachers who enter through traditional and alternative programs, such as the selectivity of their undergraduate institutions or the likelihood of holding advanced degrees, are also similar (Cohen-Vogel and Smith 2007). Research has found mixed or no effects of teachers' pathway into the profession on students' achievement (Constantine et al. 2009; Boyd et al. 2006; Zeichner and Conklin 2005).
Some alternative entry programs place recruits in "high-need" schools, generally those with high levels of student poverty and low levels of student achievement. According to its website, the New Teacher Project has placed 43,000 teachers of all subjects in high-need locations since 1997, and Teach for America's annual placement of teachers in high-need schools has grown from about 2,000 to 5,000 between 2005 and 2010 (TFA 2006, 2008, 2009). Although statistics on the number of mathematics and science teachers placed are not available, the New Teacher Project and Teach for America include increasing the supply of teachers in those subject areas among their goals.
In 2007, 19% of all public middle and high school mathematics teachers and 22% of science teachers had entered the profession through an alternative certification program, compared with 16% of teachers in other fields (appendix table
Some experienced teachers pursue certification from the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards, a nonprofit organization that evaluates teachers' performance against a set of professional standards and confers certificates indicating superior teaching quality. Applicants must have completed 3 years of teaching and must hold state certification to be eligible. They must then complete 10 assessments reviewed by evaluators in their subject area—requirements that are more rigorous than those for state certification. Assessments include six online exercises, which test content knowledge in specific certificate areas, and four portfolio submissions, including video recordings of classroom practice and examples of student work.
Research on the effects of National Board Certification on student outcomes has generally been inconclusive. An assessment of 11 such studies by the National Academy of Sciences concluded that in any case, such a relationship is not a strong one (Hakel, Koenig, and Elliott 2008). Research in several states has shown that teachers holding this certification are less likely to teach in schools with high proportions of poor, minority, and low-performing students (Goldhaber, Choi, and Cramer 2007; Humphrey, Koppich, and Hough 2005). According to the National Board website, more than 90,000 teachers were National Board Certified as of 2010, a 90% increase since 2005, and 42% teach in schools eligible for Title I, a federal program to provide funds to schools and districts with high percentages of low-income students. About one-quarter of school districts offer pay incentives for teachers who earn National Board Certification (Aritomi and Coopersmith 2009).
Practice teaching (also called student teaching) offers prospective teachers hands-on classroom experience to help them transfer what they learn from coursework into classroom teaching. Practical experience in the classroom affects teaching quality (Boyd et al. 2008), and SASS data support this finding: among teachers with fewer than 5 years of experience (referred to here as "new teachers"), those who had participated in practice teaching were more likely to report feeling well prepared or very well prepared for various aspects of teaching during their first year than did those who had not had practice teaching (appendix table
Among new public middle and high school mathematics and science teachers in 2007, about three-quarters had participated in practice teaching (appendix table
The proportion of new mathematics and science teachers who have participated in practice teaching has declined during recent years. Seventy-five percent of new mathematics and 72% of new science teachers reported participation in practice teaching in 2007, compared with 79% and 75%, respectively, in 2003 (appendix table
New middle and high school teachers (i.e., those with fewer than 5 years of experience) generally felt well prepared to perform various tasks during their first year of teaching, and science teachers in particular have seen improvements in feeling prepared (appendix table
New teachers' assessments of their preparation varied with the characteristics of their schools. For example, 99% of new mathematics teachers and 95% of new science teachers in low-minority schools felt prepared to teach their subject matter, compared with 84% and 85% of their peers in high-minority schools (appendix table
Teachers generally are more effective in helping students learn as they gain years of experience, particularly during their first few years (Boyd et al. 2006; Clotfelter, Ladd, and Vigdor 2007; Harris and Sass 2008; Rice 2010). In 2007, about one-fifth of public middle and high school mathematics and science teachers were novices with 3 or fewer years of experience (appendix table
Teachers bring a variety of knowledge, skills, and experience into their classrooms, but conditions in their schools and districts also influence their effectiveness in promoting student outcomes and their decisions about remaining in the profession. This section presents indicators of district and school attributes that affect teachers' success, including the assignment of teachers to subjects, initial and ongoing professional development, salaries, and working conditions.
Over the past decade, few issues related to teaching quality have received more attention than in-field teaching assignment in middle and high schools (Almy and Theokas 2010; Dee and Cohodes 2008; Peske and Haycock 2006). NCLB mandates that all students have teachers who demonstrate competence in subject knowledge and teaching. NCLB does not provide specific guidance or criteria for adequate preparation to teach mathematics and science, however, leaving that task to states.
To determine whether teachers have subject-specific preparation for the fields they teach, recent research focused on matching teachers' formal preparation (as indicated by degree major and certification field) with their teaching field (Hill and Gruber 2011; McGrath, Holt, and Seastrom 2005; Morton et al. 2008). Following this line of research, the National Science Board (2010b) distinguished four levels of formal preparation for teaching mathematics and science at the middle and high school levels. In order of decreasing rigor of preparation, they are as follows:
In-field mathematics teachers in public middle schools increased from 53% in 2003 to 64% in 2007 (table
The level of in-field mathematics and science teachers in high schools did not change between 2003 and 2007. In both years, large majorities of high school mathematics teachers (87% in 2003 and 88% in 2007), biology/life science teachers (92% in 2003 and 93% in 2007), and physical science teachers (78% in 2003 and 82% in 2007) taught in field. Relatively few (3% or lower) mathematics and science teachers in high schools had general education preparation.
In-field teachers were more likely in low-minority and low-poverty schools than in their high-minority and high-poverty counterparts (appendix table
In-field mathematics teaching became somewhat more common at high-poverty and high-minority middle schools between 2003 and 2007; for example, the rate of in-field mathematics teachers increased from 47% to 65% at high-poverty middle schools and from 51% to 61% at high-minority middle schools.
Professional development enables teachers to update their knowledge, sharpen their skills, and acquire new teaching techniques, all of which may enhance the quality of teaching and learning (Davis, Petish, and Smithey 2006; Richardson and Placier 2001). Research indicates that professional development can have measurable effects on student performance; an analysis examining outcomes across 16 studies of professional development for mathematics and science teachers found that professional development had statistically significant effects on student performance in mathematics (CCSSO 2009).
New Teacher Induction and Support. Professional development often begins during a teachers' first year in the classroom. Without sufficient support and guidance, teachers in their first and second years may struggle, become less committed to teaching, and leave the profession altogether (Smith and Ingersoll 2004; Smith and Rowley 2005). Teacher induction programs at the school, local, or state level are designed to help teachers in their first 2 years improve their professional practice, deepen their understanding of teaching, and prevent early attrition (Britton et al. 2003; Fulton, Yoon, and Lee 2005; Smith and Ingersoll 2004).
Participation in new teacher induction programs is becoming more common. Among new public middle and high school teachers with fewer than 5 years of experience in 2007, 79% of mathematics and 73% of science teachers had participated in an induction program during their first year, compared with 71% of mathematics teachers and 68% of science teachers in 2003 (appendix table
The extent to which these programs help new teachers be more effective is unclear: a recent nationwide study of induction programs at the elementary level found no effects on student achievement for teachers who received a single year of induction, and effects on student achievement for teachers in 2-year induction programs were evident only in teachers' third year of teaching (Glazerman et al. 2010). The study found no relationship between participation in new teacher induction and retention of teachers during their first 4 years. Some research suggests that a subject-matter match between teachers and induction programs improves outcomes for teachers (Luft 2009; Luft et al. 2010), but this question was not examined in the national study.
Ongoing Professional Development. Teachers' professional development does not end after their first few years of teaching. Ongoing training is often mandated by state regulations and delivered by school districts to teachers throughout their careers. In 2007, more than three-quarters of mathematics and science teachers in public middle and high schools received professional development in the content of their teaching subject during the previous 12 months (figure
The duration of professional development programs is often shorter than what research suggests may be desirable. Although more research is needed to establish a threshold, some studies have suggested 80 hours or more of professional development is necessary to affect teacher practice (Banilower et al. 2006; CCSSO 2009; NSB 2008). Among teachers who received professional development in their subject area, 28% of mathematics and 29% of science teachers received 33 hours or more (figure
The three top priority areas for professional development programs identified by mathematics and science teachers at public middle and high schools were student discipline and classroom management, the content of their main subject field, and use of technology in instruction (appendix table
Financial incentives have been associated with increased teacher recruitment (Berry 2004; Steele, Murnane, and Willet 2009) and retention (Clotfelter et al. 2008; Hanushek, Kain, and Rivkin 2004) (see sidebar "Teacher Attrition"). In 2007, 15% of school districts offered pay incentives in fields of shortage—usually mathematics, science, and special education—and 10% offered rewards for excellence in teaching (Aritomi and Coopersmith 2009). Whether these policies improve overall teaching quality has not been established (Fryer 2011; Hanushek et al. 2005; Hanushek and Rivkin 2007; Rand Corporation 2006; Springer et al. 2010).
Research has indicated that teachers earn less than other professionals with similar levels of education (AFT 2008; Allegretto, Corcoran, and Mishel 2008; Hanushek and Rivkin 2007). The circumstances of employment and the nature of the work differ between teachers and non-teachers, however, and may account for salary differences to some extent. Teachers are more likely than other professionals to work in rural areas, for example, where costs of living and salaries are lower (Taylor 2008). Selecting the appropriate comparison group for teachers also complicates salary comparisons: some research uses figures for most fields requiring a bachelor's degree (AFT 2008), and at least one study suggests that a smaller set of occupations requiring more similar skills may be more appropriate (Milanowski 2008).
In 2007, the average base salary of middle and high school mathematics and science teachers was approximately $50,000, based on teachers' reports in SASS (appendix table
When asked to rate their satisfaction with their salaries, slightly more than half of mathematics teachers reported being satisfied (figure
Like salaries, working conditions play a role in determining the supply of qualified teachers and influencing their decisions about remaining in the profession. Safe environments, strong administrative leadership, cooperation among teachers, high levels of parent involvement, and sufficient learning resources can improve teacher effectiveness, enhance commitment to their schools, and promote job satisfaction (Berry, Smylie, and Fuller 2008; Brill and McCartney 2008; Guarino, Santibanez, and Daley 2006; Ingersoll and May 2010).
SASS asked teachers whether they agreed with several statements about their school environments and working conditions. Although agreement was not unanimous, large majorities of mathematics and science teachers at public middle and high schools agreed with the following statements regarding their working conditions in 2007: 88% of mathematics and 86% of science teachers reported that the principal knows what kind of school he or she wants and has communicated it to the staff; 85% of mathematics and 82% of science teachers agreed that the necessary materials for teaching were available; and 76% of mathematics and 73% of science teachers agreed that staff were recognized for a job well done (appendix table
Responses to some questions differed, however, with the composition of the school's student body. For example, about half of mathematics teachers at high-poverty and high-minority schools reported that students' tardiness and class cutting interfered with teaching, compared with 34–35% of teachers at low-poverty and low-minority schools (figure
Teacher perceptions about certain problems in their schools improved slightly between 2003 and 2007. The percentage of mathematics and science teachers at middle and high schools reporting student apathy and students coming to school unprepared to learn as serious problems declined from 2003 to 2007. For example, 28% of mathematics teachers in 2007, compared with 31% in 2003, identified student apathy as a serious problem at their schools (appendix table
Although these improvements were small overall, most of the improvement in teachers' responses occurred at schools with high concentrations of low-income and minority students. For example, in 2003, 48% of mathematics teachers at high-poverty schools reported that student apathy was a serious problem, compared with 12% at low-poverty schools—a gap of 36 percentage points (figure