National Center for Education Statistics

The federal government's National Center for Education Statistics publishes two indispensable volumes each year, without which nobody has essential data at hand. One is The Digest of Education Statistics, consisting of hundreds of pages of numbers sans interpretation or commentary. The other is the more selective and subjective Condition of Education. The latest edition is just out. Weighing in at almost 300 pages, it is largely free of the creeping politicization that beset some of these volumes in the late Clinton administration. And it's full of telling factoids and trend lines. Here are a few from the section on teachers:

  • Among (1992-93) college graduates who became teachers (within 5 years of graduation), 55 percent majored in education. (So much for subject mastery.)
  • Those who didn't prepare for teaching careers while in college but became teachers anyway were more likely (35%) to have scored in the top quartile of their entering college class than those (14%) who both prepared to teach and became teachers. (Sounds to me like praise for alternative certification.)
  • Those who taught in private schools were more likely (33%) than those who taught in public schools (15%) to have ranked in the top quartile of their entering college class. (Private school teachers, of course, need not be certified.)
  • Those who had taught but were no longer teaching in 1997 had higher scores than those who remained in teaching. (The ablest leave the classroom.)
  • In 1999, 41% of U.S. eighth graders had a math teacher who had majored in mathematics; the international average was 71%. U.S. 8th grade math teachers were also more apt to have majored in education (54 vs. 32%).

Steeping yourself in this report is a far better use of time than reading the Kappan! For a copy, surf to, where you can download the entire report or individual sections.

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