Friday, February 15, 2008

Statewide study shows disparities in teacher pay, experience

The study appears to be restating what other research has shown in terms of less experienced teachers serving high poverty schools of color. I was a little upset that the report doesn't make any mention to the teaching needs of English language learners or Special Ed students. Check out the report: “Their Fair Share: How Texas-Sized Gaps in Teacher Quality Shortchange Low-Income and Minority Students” -Patricia

Jennifer L. Berghom | The Monitor
February 14, 2008

Students attending schools with higher poverty rates and minority populations are more likely to have less experienced teachers, according to a statewide study.

Five Rio Grande Valley school districts — Brownsville, Edinburg, La Joya, McAllen and Pharr-San Juan-Alamo — were included in the study from The Education Trust, which compared teacher experience and pay at 50 of the state’s largest school districts.

But area officials wonder how the study can decipher which campuses are “low poverty” or “high minority,” because their districts are homogeneous. The vast majority of students attending schools in the Valley are Hispanic and most school districts serve high percentages of low-income students.

“It doesn’t make sense to me,” said Brownsville schools Assistant Superintendent Susan Fox.

The study — “Their Fair Share: How Texas-Sized Gaps in Teacher Quality Shortchange Low-Income and Minority Students” — compared the average income among teachers working in schools with the highest and lowest poverty rates, as well as those with the highest and lowest percentages of minority students. It also looked at teacher turnover rates over a five-year period.

And it looked at how many children in each school of each district received free or reduced lunch or other public assistance to determine the lowest to highest poverty schools. Student populations at each school were also reviewed to determine which ones served the highest and lowest percentages of minority students.

The study shows students attending schools serving low-income families and a large percentage of minorities are more likely to employ less experienced teachers, as well as those who are not certified in the subjects they teach. It also indicates teachers working in those schools, on average, earn less than their counterparts at more affluent schools with fewer minority students.

The data proves that school districts throughout the state continue to assign newer teachers to schools where there are more low-income and minority students, said Heather Peske, director of teacher quality at The Education Trust.

“It’s not a good strategy to assign new teachers (to schools) with students who need experienced teachers the most,” Peske said. “It’s not doing anything to close the achievement gaps.”

Local school leaders said they don’t assign new teachers to schools. Instead, individual campus principals hire new teachers based on their open campus positions.

There are teachers who want to stay in some schools and others who want to transfer out once an opening is available at another campus, said Edinburg schools Personnel Management Systems Supervisor Margarita Oyervides.

Teaching slots are based on student populations, so schools with more students will have more available teaching positions. Every April teachers are given a two-week window to request a transfer to another school. The principals of the schools where they currently teach have to approve the transfer and teachers have to apply and interview with the school where they want to work, Oyervides said.

“What we do not want to see at a campus … (is) for them to have teachers wanting to leave,” she said.

To help teachers and schools, the district offers gas stipends for teachers who have to travel farther to the schools where they work. It also started a district-wide mentoring program for new teachers to encourage them to stay in the teaching field, Oyervides said.

“We’re trying to give teachers what they need,” she said.

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