Friday, February 08, 2008

Low-income, minority Texas students less likely to have experienced teachers

Let's face it. Things are so out of whack that we focus excessively on test scores, acting as if all schools are the same. This means that we fail to address the underlying inequalities that contribute significantly to the achievement gap. Teacher quality--and its impacts--is one factor that cannot be underestimated in the least. We should focus our policies on what in some sense may be characterized as a crisis but which we know to be a historically chronic and pervasive problem in our state and nation. Regardless this info is important and it is a sad testament to either inadequate or ineffective leadership and corollary policies in Texas.

What will it take...?


Low-income, minority Texas students less likely to have experienced teachers
Austin, Leander and Round Rock cited in statewide report for 'teacher quality gaps.'

By Raven L. Hill
Friday, February 08, 2008
Achievement gaps between low-income and minority students and their
peers in Austin and Round Rock can be attributed in large part to gaps
in teacher quality and experience, according to a statewide report
released Thursday.
An analysis of the 50 largest Texas school districts by The Education
Trust, a Washington-based think tank, concluded that African American,
Hispanic and low-income students almost without exception lack "the
very resource that matters most to their academic success: strong teachers."
The report examined teacher credentials, experience levels, turnover
rates and teacher pay for 2005-06. Researchers found that 42 districts
across the state, including Austin and Round Rock, had
disproportionate numbers of novice teachers ­ those with less than
three years of experience ­ at predominantly minority and low-income schools.
Leander was included in the report, but it had more balanced numbers.
In Austin, predominantly minority and low-income schools were two or
three times more likely than campuses with more affluent, mostly white
students to have larger numbers of inexperienced teachers.
District officials said Thursday that its new bonus and merit pay
initiative, which was praised in the report, should help to eliminate
such disparities by improving salaries and working conditions.
"What we're trying to do ... (is) provide all teachers with supports
to be successful," said David Lussier, a member of the district's
strategic compensation task force.
Louis Malfaro, president of Education Austin, which represents 4,000
teachers and staff members, said the focus should be on retaining teachers.
"This idea that if we just forced good teachers to go to the hard
schools, everything would be OK really misses the point," Malfaro
said. "Those young, energetic, good-hearted teachers that haven't
quite gotten as good as our more experienced teachers, if given the
support, will become the master teachers and the expert teachers."
In Round Rock, about 16 percent of teachers at predominantly minority
schools were inexperienced compared with 8 percent at less diverse campuses.
Round Rock Superintendent Jesús Chávez defended the quality of his
teaching corps.
"I think the report does point to teachers in general seeking to work
in better environments and less challenging conditions," Chávez said.
"That is an issue we face not only in Round Rock but in school
districts across the state and across the nation."
Statewide, researchers found particularly egregious discrepancies at
campuses that were predominantly African American: 49 percent of
beginning English teachers and 42 percent of algebra teachers lacked
certification in those fields.
Passing rates on state exams in part reflect those disparities,
according to the report; less than half of African American and
Hispanic ninth-graders passed the math section of the Texas Assessment
of Knowledge and Skills in 2006.
Paul Ruiz, a senior adviser at the Education Trust's Southwest office,
said, "Many people are quick to attribute a school's performance to
the home lives of its students, but the reality is that what schools
do matters a lot."; 445-3620
Teaching in high-need schools
The terms 'highest-poverty' and 'highest-minority' refer to schools in
the highest quartile of low-income (students qualifying for the
federal free or reduced-price lunch program) and minority enrollment
in their district.
Low-income and minority student populations
Enrollment Percentage of Percentage of
2005-06 minority students low-income students
Austin 81,003 72.1 60.3
Leander 21,985 28.3 21.1
Round Rock 37,767 43.9 24.9
The teacher experience gap
Percentage of teachers with fewer than three years of teaching
experience, 2005-06
Lowest-poverty Highest-poverty Lowest-minority Highest-minority
schools schools schools schools
Austin 7.9 22.7 8.2 20.9
Leander 19.6 17.3 19.6 17.8
Round Rock 9 14.2 8 16.4
The teacher stability gap
Five-year average teacher turnover rates, 2001-02 to 2005-06
Lowest-poverty Highest-poverty Lowest-minority Highest-minority
schools schools schools schools
Austin 12.6 28.7 13 28
Leander 25.6 24.4 25.6 23.9
Round Rock 15 24.7 14.6 26
Sources: The Education Trust, Texas Education Agency

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