States shirk order for quality teachers

? Most states have shirked the law by failing to ensure that poor and minority students get their fair share of qualified teachers, a new analysis contends.

The No Child Left Behind law says underprivileged and minority students should not have a larger share of teachers who are unqualified, inexperienced or teaching unfamiliar topics. It puts the responsibility on states to figure out how to do that.

States are falling far short on the promise, according to a study released Thursday by The Education Trust, a group that advocates for poor and minority students. It is based on a review of plans from every state and the District of Columbia.

“What we found gives cause for grave concern,” said Heather Peske, one of the authors.

The report contends that states handed in vastly incomplete data, weak strategies for fixing inequities across schools and goals so vague they can’t even be measured.

All of it undermines the national effort to improve achievement, the report suggests.

The Education Department took heat, too. The report blames the agency for giving poor guidance to the states and for essentially ignoring the teacher-equity issue for four years.

“We cannot close achievement gaps if we don’t close gaps in teacher quality,” said Ross Wiener, policy director of The Education Trust.

A representative for state school leaders said the report misses some key points.

“This is something that states care deeply about and have been working on,” said Scott Palmer, a consultant for the Council of Chief State School Officers. As examples, he said states are improving data collection and paying incentives to teachers at schools in need.