Tools for Action

Teaching Quality is Central to School Capacity Building

The No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) requires that by the end of this school year, all teachers in core subject areas must be “highly qualified.” Highly qualified teachers must have earned at least a bachelor’s degree, be fully certified (or possess an alternative certification), and have passed a state competency exam in the subject in which they are teaching. In addition to teaching out-of-field, another area of need to be addressed particularly in complying with NCLB, is the number of teachers who hold emergency permits. Such permits do not satisfy the requirements of “highly qualified” teachers.

Secondary students in low-performing schools are “twice as likely as those in high-performing schools to be taught by teachers who are not certified in the subjects they are teaching.” Further, “Teachers in high-poverty, high-minority schools are less likely to have teaching experience than their colleagues in low-poverty, higher performing schools” (Humphrey et al., 2005).

To meet NCLB goals for the benefit of all children, states must address serious obstacles facing the teacher labor market. They must, for example, improve school finance equity; remove barriers to teacher mobility and the allocation of experienced, highly qualified teachers to the districts and schools confronting shortages; address the needs for appropriate preparation and mentoring of newer teachers; and strengthen recruitment and professional development programs, particularly in the core areas of math and science and in quality teaching for students with limited English proficiency and students with disabilities (Darling-Hammond and Sykes, 2003). The good news is that with greater capacity to improve teaching quality, school systems will not only be in a position to meet NCLB standards, but also to establish policies and practices that can have lasting, sustainable impact.

A Snapshot of What IDRA is Doing

Developing leaders – Through a series of MathSmart! Institutes, IDRA is delivering professional development training to secondary teachers to strengthen their leadership and efficacy in closing achievement gaps and increasing student achievement in secondary mathematics. The institutes also model the integration of computers into mathematics curricula that makes content accessible to all students.

Conducting research – IDRA’s annual attrition study examines dropout trends among Texas high school students. This research, along with data on teaching quality and other key factors that contribute to student success, is forming the backbone of IDRA’s collaboration with communities and schools to analyze needs and identify ways to strengthen schools. A recent statewide summit on school holding power, Graduation Guaranteed/Graduación Garantizada, convened by IDRA and the League of United Latin American Citizens, kicked off a local and statewide initiative in Texas that will build such partnerships, informed by quality data, for change.

Informing policy – IDRA has worked closely with the Texas Education Agency to assess statewide needs for improvement in teaching quality and retention and to develop solutions. To strengthen policy and practice, IDRA designed, implemented and evaluated the first teacher retention effort funded by TEA, enhancing the quality and retention of minority teachers and teachers in critical shortage areas. Also, IDRA’s transitions-to-teaching projects are increasing the number of fully-qualified and credentialed English as a second language teachers and bilingual teachers in high-need schools.

Engaging communities – IDRA’s Preparing Qualified Teachers of English Language Learners: A Tri-State Symposium of English Language Learners held in Little Rock brought together more than 100 educators, administrators and community representatives from “hyper-growth states” for a forum on serving growing numbers of students who are English language learners. Participants learned about teacher certification options and accelerated teacher preparation programs, actions for institutions of higher learning to improve access and quality of teacher preparation, and ways to tap minority community resources for teacher candidates and paraprofessionals.

What You Can Do

Get informed about NCLB and how it affects students, parents and teachers at and through publications prepared by the Public Education Network at To learn more about effective community-school partnerships to strengthen schools, you might look at:

  • Bilby, S. Community-driven School Reform: Parents Making a Difference in Education (Mott Mosaic, 2002).
  • Desjean-Perotta, B. “The Middle School Achievement Project: A Grassroots Effort Improves Middle Level Education,” Middle School Journal (2003).
  • Cunningham, C. “Engaging the Community to Support Student Success,” ERIC Digest 157 (April 2002). Clearinghouse on Educational Policy Management, College of Education, University of Oregon.
  • Kroll, J., Sexton, R.R., Raimondo, B.N., Corbett, H.D., & Winston, B. Setting the Stage for Success: Bringing Parents into Education Reform as Advocates for Higher Student Achievement (Lexington, Ky.: Prichard Committee for Academic Excellence, 2001).

Get results. Based on the teaching quality needs in your own neighborhood public schools, you can initiate and/or expand partnerships among educators, school administrators, parents and local community members that can jointly work toward better teaching quality. Communities and schools can monitor the plan for meeting NCLB teaching quality requirements this year; press for greater school finance equity; and build wider support for teaching and curricula that serve diverse learners, such as bilingual education and ESL programs. Through, a national campaign led by the Public Education Network, you can e-mail your governor calling for good teachers be a top priority in your state. Through the Public Education Network and locally sponsored hearings on NCLB, you can express your view on how NCLB is affecting your community and school,

For more information on the use of emergency permits in Texas, see: “Access to Quality Teaching – Number and Distribution of Emergency Permit Assignments in Texas Public Schools,” by Albert Cortez (IDRA Newsletter, May 2005) available online at:

Additional Resources

  • Canales, P, and J. Harris. “Migrant Service Coordination: Effective Field-based Practices.” In Salinas, C., and M.E. Franquiz, Scholars in the Field: The Challenges of Migrant Education (Charleston, W.Va.: AEL, 2004).
  • Darling-Hammond, L. and G. Sykes. “Wanted: A National Teacher Supply Policy for Education: The Right Way to Meet the ‘Highly Qualified Teacher’ Challenge,” Education Policy Analysis Archives (2003, September 17).
  • Villarreal, A. “Quality Teaching: A School Reform Dilemma,” IDRA Newsletter (San Antonio, Texas: Intercultural Development Research Association, April 2003).
  • National Coalition for Parent Involvement in Education – A coalition of major education, community, public service, and advocacy organizations working to create strong family and school partnerships in all schools:
  • Parent Information Resource Centers – This site provides information regarding federal legislation and equips families with the proper skills to support their child’s learning (funded by the U.S. Department of Education): Visit the IDRA Texas PIRC at

Comments and questions may be directed to him via e-mail at

[©2006, IDRA. This article originally appeared in the IDRA Newsletter by the Intercultural Development Research Association. Every effort has been made to maintain the content in its original form. However, accompanying charts and graphs may not be provided here. To receive a copy of the original article by mail or fax, please fill out our information request and feedback form. Permission to reproduce this article is granted provided the article is reprinted in its entirety and proper credit is given to IDRA and the author.]