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CNN Today

'Education Week' Study Describes Efforts to Improve Nation's Schools as Mediocre

Aired January 12, 2000 - 2:00 p.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

KYRA PHILLIPS, CNN ANCHOR: Would you give you child's teacher a passing grade. If the answer is no, you have a lot of company. An annual study of public schools says efforts nationwide to improve teacher quality from grades K-12 are only deserving of a "C."

For more, here's Jonathan Aiken.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JONATHAN AIKEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In its fourth annual look at state-by-state efforts to improve U.S. public schools, "Education Week" magazine says not enough is being done to attract good teachers, and it judged education improvement efforts under way as mediocre.

VIRGINIA EDWARDS, EDITOR, "EDUCATION WEEK": Most states do not ensure that all teachers have the knowledge and the skills they need to teach in the classrooms of this nation's schools.

AIKEN: Scoring the nation's schools from kindergarten through 12th grade, no state got an "A"; five states scored a "B"; four states received an "F"; most states are doing "C" and "D" work.

On the key issue of teacher competency, the report says while 39 states require would-be teachers to pass basic skills tests, 36 of those states offer what the study calls loopholes allowing teachers to stay on the job after they fail. And of the four states that earned "F"s from "Education Week," only one, Alaska, even requires a basic skills test in order to earn a teachers license.

The Clinton administration agrees there's a shortage of qualified teachers.

RICHARD RILEY, EDUCATION SECRETARY: It's gotten so bad that some schools have been forced to put any warm body in front of a classroom that they can find.

AIKEN: Some encouraging news in this report: Nearly all the states are spending more now per pupil than they did just two years ago. And all but six states now have standards for the basic subjects: English, reading and math.

One of the country's largest teachers unions agrees with the report's generally pessimistic tone and says improving teacher pay will improve the quality of what comes out of the classroom.

DONNA FOWLER, AMERICAN FEDERATION OF TEACHERS: It's a way that you will get more qualified people into the profession. In most other businesses, when there's a shortage, salaries go up and the shortage is filled.

AIKEN (on camera): Money is a major problem, but the biggest challenge may be keeping young teachers in the classrooms at all. An Education Department study finds one out of every five college graduates who become teachers quits the profession after just three years.

Jonathan Aiken for CNN, Washington.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

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