Over 250,000 US
Teachers Said Unprepared
To Teach

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. Education Secretary Richard Riley on Sunday cited ``one of the worst shortages of qualified teachers in memory'' and said some 250,000 teachers were working without proper preparation.
``It's gotten so bad that some schools have been forced to put any warm body in front of a classroom,'' Riley told the first ever National Conference on Teacher Quality.
He said the movement to raise educational standards would not succeed -- despite recent gains in standardized testing scores and declines in high school dropout rates -- unless teachers received adequate training and resources.
This was particularly true given the changing nature of teaching, a record number of pupils -- many of whom don't speak English -- and the challenges of teaching children with disabilities and emotional problems.
``Many school districts are reporting the worst shortages of qualified teachers in memory, particularly in math, science, special education, and bilingual education,'' Riley said.
``It has been estimated that 250,000 teachers are working without proper preparation in course content, or without any kind of training in how to teach,'' he added.
Consequently, it was vital that teachers got the right training to prepare the nation's students for the future.
``Unless we provide teachers with the right preparation, induction, mentoring, support, professional development, and pay, the movement to raise standards...may stumble,'' Riley said.
He urged over 800 educators at the conference to develop concrete action plans to improve teacher education in their communities and recruit new teachers from diverse backgrounds.
The conference brought together leaders from higher education, K-12 schools, the business world and community groups.
Riley noted that America's public schools had progress to report, including rising SAT scores and advancing math and science achievements. But he said the nation was still falling short of its goal to ``make sure that there is a...dedicated teacher in every classroom.''
One key step was to ensure that education departments got the respect they deserved, rather than being ``university backwaters, as some have been allowed to become,'' he said.
He underscored the Clinton administration's commitment to improving education and funding programs to build links between public schools and universities, as well as ensuring that student teachers learned to use technology in the classroom.


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