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TABLE 5-1 Students in US Public Schools Taught by Teachers with No Major or Certification in the Subject Taught, 1999-2000


Grades 5–8

Grades 9–12







Physical science



Biology–life sciences






Physical education



SOURCE: National Center for Education Statistics. Qualifications of the Public School Teacher Workforce: Prevalence of Out-of-Field Teaching 1987-1988 to 1999-2000. Washington, DC: US Department of Education, 2003.

period, about 200,000 of them in secondary science and mathematics classrooms.6

We need to recruit, educate, and retain excellent K–12 teachers who fundamentally understand biology, chemistry, physics, engineering, and mathematics. The critical lack of technically trained people in the United States can be traced directly to poor K–12 mathematics and science instruction. Few factors are more important than this if the United States is to compete successfully in the 21st century.

The Committee on Prospering in the 21st Century recommends a package of K–12 programs that is based on tested models, including financial incentives for teachers and students and high standards for, and measurable achievement by, teachers, students, and administrators. The programs will create broad-based academic leadership for K–12 mathematics and science, and they will provide for rigorous curricula. Support for the action items in this recommendation should have the highest priority for the federal government as it addresses America’s ability to compete for quality jobs in the future.

The strengths of the proposed actions derive from their focus on teachers—those who are entering the profession and those who currently teach science and mathematics—and on the students they will teach. The recommendations cover the spectrum of K–12 teachers, and several programs are recommended to tailor education for different populations. Each recommendation has specific, measurable objectives. At the same time, we must emphasize the need for research and evaluation to serve as a foundation for


National Research Council. Attracting Science and Mathematics PhDs to Secondary School Education. Washington, DC: National Academy Press, 2000. Available at:

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