News Release

One Quarter of Science and Math Students Have “Out-of-Field” Teachers

Washington, DC—Twenty-six percent of secondary-level science and math students in public schools were taught by teachers who did not have “in-field” majors or state certification in the 2003-04 school year, according to a new Child Trends study, Qualifications of Public School Teachers for Science, Mathematics, and History.  Students in higher poverty schools and students with less experienced teachers were more likely to be taught by “out-of-field” teachers.

 

Among secondary-level science and math students in the 2003-04 school year:

 

  • 58 percent had a teacher with a postsecondary major in the specific science or math field that they were teaching.
  • 61 percent had a teacher with an in-field regular state certification.
  • 45 percent had a teacher with both qualifications.
  • 26 percent had a teacher with neither qualification.

 

Students of both math and science in lower poverty schools (where fewer than 50 percent of students were eligible for free or reduced-price lunch) were more likely to be taught by teachers with in-field qualifications than were students in higher poverty schools (where 50 percent or more of students were eligible for free or reduced-price lunch).

 

  • 64 percent of students in lower poverty schools had teachers with an in-field state certification, compared to 53 percent of students in higher poverty schools.
  • 23 percent of students in lower poverty schools had a teacher with no in-field certification or major, as opposed to 35 percent of students in higher poverty schools.

 

Students of veteran teachers (with 6 or more years of teaching experience) had in-field certified teachers more often than students of newer teachers (with 5 or fewer years of experience).

 

  • 67 percent of students of veteran teachers had an in-field certified teacher, compared to 45 percent of students with newer teachers.
  • 11 percent of students with veteran teachers were taught by teachers without a regular certification in any subject, compared to 58 percent of students of newer teachers.

 

The study also examines secondary-level history teachers. Among history students in the 2003-04 school year:

 

  • 62 percent had a teacher with a postsecondary major in the specific science or math field that they were teaching.
  • 79 percent had a teacher with an in-field regular state certification.
  • 53 percent had a teacher with both qualifications.
  • 12 percent had a teacher with neither qualification.

The study uses data from the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) 2003-04 Schools and Staffing Survey (SASS) Public Teacher Questionnaire and Public School Questionnaire.   The study includes science, math, and history teachers of grades 7-12.

Child Trends is a nonprofit, nonpartisan research center that studies children at every stage of development.  Its mission is to improve outcomes for children by providing research, data, and analysis to the people and institutions whose decisions and actions affect children.


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