In the newspaper graphic that showed all the states and their percentage of highly qualified teachers, there was Missouri in dark green -- one of only 13 states to have 95 percent or more classes taught by teachers with bachelor's degrees or who have passed comprehensive tests in their subjects.
The U.S. Department of Education has just released its first nationwide figures on teacher quality under the federal No Child Left Behind Act of 2001. By the end of the 2005-06 school year, every teacher of every core class in the country must be highly qualified.
Celia Sims, who coordinates federal applications for the U.S. Department of Education, said the requirement for teacher qualifications is designed to spotlight areas where teacher quality needs improvement. In addition, it will get parents more involved by putting the information about teacher qualifications in a manner that is easy to understand. No more will troubled school districts be able to hide their "dirty little secret," Sims said.
Fortunately, the study only confirmed what parents in our area have known for years: Teachers in local school districts want to be qualified, national requirements or no.
In Cape Girardeau, district totals show 96.4 percent of classrooms are taught by teachers who meet the guidelines.. Blanchard and Clippard elementary schools have the highest number, with 100 percent of classrooms taught by highly qualified teachers.
Central Junior High School, with 94.2 percent of classrooms meeting that mark, has the lowest percentage. But district officials say one teacher has received the proper certification since the numbers were submitted, and others are certified to teach high school classes, where the subject matter is more difficult, but are teaching at the lower grades.
The Jackson School District has 98.3 percent of classrooms taught by highly qualified teachers.
Five schools in Jackson's district -- the middle school and Gordonville, Millersville, North and West Lane elementary schools -- all have 100 percent of classrooms taught by highly qualified teachers. The Primary Annex, which houses the majority of the district's kindergarten classes, has the least amount at 94.1 percent.
The figures represent the first benchmark of the country's teachers under NCLB. Some educators feel national comparisons don't work because states set their own standards for teacher certification. There may need to be some adjustments, but the information is good to have and has been compiled thanks to President Bush's initiative to revamp public education in America.