I like Gene Carter's reference to Professor Sonia Nieto's assertion in ED LEADERSHIP, "As Sonia Nieto wrote in Educational Leadership, the question of which children are taught by high-quality teachers is a profoundly multicultural one that reveals deeply ingrained inequalities in our schools. In the struggle to raise student academic achievement and close achievement gaps between poor and affluent children, we must not fail to do what we know makes an enormous difference: guarantee all students access to experienced and capable educators." -Angela
Closing the Educator Gap
By Gene R. Carter, Executive Director, ASCD
Our most vulnerable students—those in high-poverty, low-performing schools—are far less likely than their wealthier peers to attend schools with the most qualified staff, according to a new report from the Learning First Alliance (LFA), a partnership of ASCD and 11 other leading education associations.
The report, A Shared Responsibility: Staffing All High-Poverty, Low-Performing Schools with Effective Teachers and Administrators, finds that efforts to close gaps in student academic achievement are thwarted by deep-rooted staffing inequities. The students who most need highly effective teachers are the least likely to be taught by them, and the instructors they do get are often not the best equipped in nearly every area of teacher quality that research has shown to matter most for student learning.
As Sonia Nieto wrote in Educational Leadership, the question of which children are taught by high-quality teachers is a profoundly multicultural one that reveals deeply ingrained inequalities in our schools. In the struggle to raise student academic achievement and close achievement gaps between poor and affluent children, we must not fail to do what we know makes an enormous difference: guarantee all students access to experienced and capable educators.
Research cited in the LFA report indicates that California teachers in high-minority schools are five times as likely to lack full certification as their peers in low-minority schools. Another study concluded that 70 percent of math classes in high-poverty middle schools are taught by teachers who have not completed a college major or minor in mathematics or a related field, such as math education or statistics.
Complex conditions perpetuate these staffing inequities and prevent high-poverty schools from attracting and retaining qualified staff. A recent study found that high-poverty urban schools lose 22 percent of their teachers annually, compared with only 12.8 percent in low-poverty schools—a problem compounded by lower numbers of candidates applying for open positions.
This troubling chain of events leaves our neediest schools with constant vacancies, fewer applicants to fill them, and a greater likelihood of hiring less-experienced teachers. We cannot counteract these conditions simply by producing more teachers or shuffling existing educators among schools. Rather, we need to turn our high-poverty, low-performing schools into places where educators want to work.
The LFA report recognizes that we must address all of the factors that contribute to gaps in educator quality. It identifies the following eight priority areas that need improvement if we are to bolster the ability of our disadvantaged schools to attract and retain effective staff:
School Leadership—Ensure that high-poverty, low-performing schools have effective leaders.
Working Conditions—Make the job "doable" by ensuring adequate resource staff; manageable class sizes; and a safe, supportive environment.
Professional Support—Provide intense teacher support so that teachers succeed in challenging classrooms.
Incentives—Compensate staff for taking on tougher assignments in high-poverty, low-performing schools. Recognize and reward improvements they make.
Preparation—Ensure that teachers and leaders are prepared to be effective in high-poverty, low-performing schools.
Hiring and Placement—Create processes and practices that facilitate the timely hiring and placement of effective teachers in high-need schools.
Policy Coherence—Establish a coherent set of federal, state, and local policies that promote recruitment and retention of effective teachers for challenged schools.
Funding—Ensure adequate and equitable funding based on student needs.
Children come to school with diverse learning needs and advantages, but the need for quality teachers in all schools is constant and unchanging. A study highlighted in the May 27, 2003, issue of ASCD ResearchBrief found that teacher effectiveness is "the single biggest factor influencing gains in achievement—an influence many times greater than poverty or per-pupil expenditures."
Our efforts to close the achievement gap must focus not only on identifying schools where student performance is in need of improvement, but also on overcoming gaps in crucial resources such as teacher effectiveness.
Report is available at The Learning First Alliance.
Sonia Nieto's article, "Profoundly Multicultural Questions," is available in the December 2002/January 2003 issue of Educational Leadership.