Teaching Out of Field

Do you teach a subject in which you have no certification or college major? If you answered yes, don’t worry; you’re not alone. According to a recent report from The Education Trust, a national survey of teachers revealed that 15.6 percent of secondary educators teach a core subject outside of their certification or major. The results are even worse for schools in high-poverty areas, with nearly 22 percent of teachers forced to tackle unfamiliar subjects.

These numbers look bad, but what makes them even worse is that the officially reported numbers from the Department of Education show only five percent of teachers teach out of field. The large disparity between these numbers is troubling, given that one of the main provisions of No Child Left Behind is that impoverished students not be taught by unqualified teachers. While these numbers don’t necessarily mean ineffective teacher performance or failing students, it’s generally accepted knowledge that teachers who are experts in their subjects are much more effective.

Now for the good news: when compared to the statistics from the last report in 2003- 2004, the numbers actually show some improvement, with the national average coming down from 17.2 percent. A state-by-state breakdown shows some areas had even better results, with Pennsylvania, Vermont and Minnesota showing less than ten percent of their teachers in subjects outside of their field.

How about your school? Do you know of teachers trying to teach subjects in which they have no expertise? Let us know in the comments.

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