Many of them are - largely because they know too little.
By 1997, the Department of Education was forced to admit that a staggering 59 percent of social studies teachers were teaching subjects they hadn’t even studied. Not surprisingly, that year 57 percent of high school seniors scored “below basic” in U.S. history.
Fast forward to 2006: 62 percent of teachers agreed that their training didn’t prepare them well for their jobs. Teacher training programs have not only been a waste, but they may actually make teachers less competent at their jobs. That’s why no matter how much money you throw at them, modern teacher certification programs still do not improve teacher quality and student achievement.
No law, executive edict, funding package, or curriculum restriction will fix the teacher quality problem. In any case, you would still have teachers in the classroom who can’t do what you want them to do: competently teach their students. Telling a history teacher educated on Howard Zinn or Paulo Freire to teach a competent class on the U.S. Constitution from the framers’ point of view would be like telling a chef he can cook anything on the menu but only giving him the ingredients for pasta. You’ll get something, sure. It’ll probably be pasta.
Improving teacher quality in America’s schools will take much time and hard work. You would have to start from the ground up, training new teachers from scratch based on partially lost knowledge. You would have to raise college admission standards and require four years of academic work in the teacher’s core subject. Studies show that subject-matter knowledge is the best predictor of a student’s achievement.
Strengthen the curriculum and strengthen the quality of the academic teaching force … [Or] America’s students soon may not have any learning at all to lose.