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Home > Data Center > Are there data on the number of teachers highly qualified under the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB)?

National Data

Percent of teachers teaching on a waiver in 2007-2008:

  • All teachers: 1.4%
  • Teachers in high-poverty districts: 2.0%
  • Teachers in all other districts: 1.1%

Data Source

The percent of teachers given waivers is published by the U.S. Department of Education each year in the Secretary of Education’s (page 48) report on teacher quality.


Under NCLB, all teachers must be highly qualified by 2006. While states have some flexibility in defining a highly qualified teacher, NCLB requires a bachelor’s degree, full state certification, and demonstration of the content knowledge in the subject taught. Schools and districts must also report to the public the percent of students being taught by highly qualified teachers. Teachers on waivers are not fully certified under state criteria.

How to Use the Data

A growing body of research shows that one of the most important factors influencing the academic success of students is the effectiveness of their teachers. The highly qualified teacher data allows educators and the public to find out the percent of teachers in each state who have received waivers of state teacher quality regulations.

How the details were measured

The data is presented as the percent of secondary classes in core academic subjects that are taught by teachers lacking at least a minor in the field. The researchers defined secondary as grades seven through twelve and core academics subjects as math, history, English, and the sciences. The data can be broken down by high- and low-poverty schools and by high- and low-minority schools.

Limitations of the data

The highly qualified teacher data does not provide any measure of a teacher’s effectiveness, nor does the data show how long a teacher has been on a waiver. Also, the data can only be used to compare schools within a state. Because of the variations within highly qualified teacher definitions and state licensure systems, the data is unreliable when it is compared across states.

Key Questions to Ask

How does your state define a highly qualified teacher?

Under NCLB, states have significant latitude in how they determine if a teacher is highly qualified. While some states require teacher tests to demonstrate content knowledge, others do not. You can view highly qualified teacher regulations on the Education Commission of the States (ECS) Web site.

Are highly qualified teachers less likely to teach in high minority/high poverty schools?

According to the Secretary of Education’s 2009 report on teacher quality, almost one-third of the teachers who were on waivers taught in high-poverty school districts. To make sure that all students reach high standards, you need to make sure that all students have access to highly qualified teachers.

Learn More

Under the teacher quality provisions of NCLB, states have to show on their state, district, and school report cards the percent of teachers meeting the state’s definition of “highly qualified.” Since many states have made state certification the equivalent of being highly qualified, many simply report the percentage of teachers who have waivers or emergency certification. Under the law, schools also have to tell parents in writing when their children are taught by a teacher who isn’t highly qualified.

School-level teacher qualifications data can be found on SchoolMatters Web site for most states.  If you are interested in learning more about your state’s teacher quality efforts, you can find all 50 state plans on the U.S. Department of Education Web site.

NCLB requires all teachers to be highly qualified. For existing classroom teachers, the law allows for a “High Objective Uniform State Standard” of evaluation (HOUSSE). This regulation allows existing teachers to demonstrate content knowledge without taking a test or taking further training. Most states have decided to use a point system that allows teachers to receive credit for previous professional development and coursework. ECS tracks how states have decided to implement the HOUSSE regulations in its online database.

Since NCLB became law, there has been a great deal of debate over the highly qualified teacher provision. While many states and districts have complained about the law’s demands, some organizations like the Education Trust have argued that state and federal governments haven’t gone far enough to improve the equitable distribution of teachers. Because this is a law that requires periodic reauthorization, you should follow the National School Boards Association’s Advocacy and Legislation Web site for news on this issue.

Additional Resources

Demonstrating success:

A culture of collaboration spurs academic growth in a low-income California community—Changing the school culture to one of collaboration with an unwavering focus on excellence has helped the school grow from one with dismal performance to one with distinguished growth. By 2005, the district was recognized for its outstanding academic progress.