Implementing, expanding, and supporting high-quality advanced study programs in science and mathematics requires resources that some school districts have difficulty providing. Such is the case particularly in rural areas and urban school districts that are supported by a limited property tax base and serve a large number of high-poverty or minority students. There is substantial variation in available fiscal resources across states, as well as among districts within states. For example, Rubenstein (1998) found that within some districts, schools with higher levels of student poverty sometimes receive lower allocations of both money and other educational resources than more affluent schools within the same district.12
Establishing and supporting high-quality advanced study programs also means that school districts must allocate sufficient resources for teacher professional development, instructional resources, and adequate student preparation at the middle school level. Indeed, disparities in school funding can exacerbate the already low level of access to advanced study courses for students who reside in high-poverty localities. Some states, such as Indiana, South Carolina, California, and Texas, have implemented state funding initiatives to ensure that advanced study opportunities will be equitably distributed across all of the states’ schools and school districts.
In the quest for greater student achievement, state governments have undertaken reforms that have as their goal better teaching and learning for all students (Council of Chief State School Officers [CCSSO], 1998). Despite these reforms and the hard work of school and school district personnel, gaps still exist between desired and actual student achievement. These gaps can be attributed largely to disparities in the qualifications and distribution of the teacher workforce (Darling-Hammond, 2000).
Teaching quality matters. Numerous studies of the effects of teachers on student achievement have revealed that the availability and effectiveness of qualified teachers are strong contributors to observed variances in student learning (Jordan, Mendro, and Weerasinghe, 1997; Sanders and Rivers, 1996; Wright, Horn, and Sanders, 1997). There is broad consensus that students learn more from teachers with strong academic skills than from those with