Problems with the quality, qualifications, and preparation of elementary and secondary school teachers have long persisted in America’s schools. In the early 1990s, Professor Ingersoll began a research study that uncovered a major source of underqualified teachers. He learned that out-of-field teaching—the practice of assigning teachers to teach subjects that do not match their preparation and training—was a primary contributor to this problem. Working with analysts Sharon Bobbitt and Marilyn Seastrom from the National Center for Education Statistics, he developed accurate measures of out-of-field teaching—something never done before. His research showed that this practice, while largely unknown to the public, is widespread in U.S. schools. Professor Ingersoll published a series of reports, articles, and essays documenting that out-of-field teaching, contrary to conventional wisdom, does not result from inadequate teacher preparation or teacher shortages. Rather, this practice is rooted in the manner in which schools and teachers are managed and in the organizational need to staff classrooms as efficiently and inexpensively as possible while serving an increasingly large and diverse student population. Professor Ingersoll has also studied other aspects of teacher preparation and quality, including the effects of teachers’ preservice preparation on their retention and the myths surrounding the problem of low-quality teachers and teaching. These publications have been cited 3,300 times and downloaded more than 28,000 times from the University of Pennsylvania’s Scholarly Commons website.
His research on underqualified teachers has drawn national recognition and media attention. President Clinton quoted Professor Ingersoll’s findings in several speeches (for example, his speech to the NAACP in July 1997 announcing his teacher recruitment and training initiatives). In February 1998, Professor Ingersoll testified on this research at the Congressional Hearings on Teacher Preparation Initiatives held by the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Education and the Workforce. His research influenced the development of the No Child Left Behind Act, especially the Highly Qualified Teacher regulations arising from that legislation. The results of this research have been featured in reports from numerous groups, including the Education Trust, the National Governors' Association, the Committee for Economic Development, the Brookings Institute, the National Association of State Boards of Education, the Milken Family Foundation, the Century Foundation, the Aspen Institute, and the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development. From 2005 to 2007, Professor Ingersoll served on a National Academy of Sciences/National Research Council Committee that examined National Board Certification for teachers.