The Big Story Blog

Teaching in their field?

Posted at 2:59 PM on February 23, 2012 by Paul Tosto
Filed under: Education

There's a common lament that teachers end up teaching topics they have no business teaching: They might have been trained to teach English but here they are trying to dissect a frog in biology.

It's definitely a problem in some states, but not in Minnesota, where nearly 9 of 10 public high school teachers are teaching in their fields of expertise.

Below is a chart I put together from a National Center for Education Statistics report examining the credentials of teachers in core subjects in 2007-2008.Teachers were considered to be teaching in-field if they had majored in the subjects they taught.

It stands to reason that if you focused on a subject in college you're better equipped to teach it. The research isn't definitive on whether this leads to higher student achievement. Still, if you're looking for ways to judge teacher quality, Minnesota looks really good on this measure. And Wisconsin looks great.

State% teachers with a major in
main teaching assignment
Wisconsin93.1
Illinois91.2
Iowa89.9
Minnesota89.4
Connecticut89.1
New York87.7
North Carolina87.7
North Dakota86.9
Nebraska86.8
New Jersey86.8
Georgia86.1
Ohio85.6
Virginia84.8
New Hampshire84.7
South Carolina84.6
Vermont84.5
Nevada83.9
Michigan83.5
Colorado83.1
Massachusetts83
Alabama82.3
Oregon82.3
West Virginia82.2
Kentucky82
Indiana81.9
Maryland81.6
Kansas81.5
Montana81.3
Missouri80.7
Wyoming80.6
Idaho80.4
Pennsylvania80.4
Utah79.7
Rhode Island78.9
Tennessee78.7
California78.4
Maine78
South Dakota78
Washington77.7
Arkansas77
Delaware77
Arizona76.1
Alaska75.6
Oklahoma72
Texas71.9
Mississippi71.4
Florida70.8
Hawaii66.6
New Mexico66.6
Louisiana66.1

You can find all the data here.


About Paul Tosto

Paul Tosto

Paul Tosto writes the Big Story Blog for MPR News. He joined the newsroom in 2008 after more than 20 years reporting on education, politics and the economy for news wires and newspapers across the country.