Monday, December 22, 2014

Examining Educator Equity

The ability of teachers to choose where they prefer to teach has led to inevitable inequalities when it comes to access to high-quality teachers for low income children. The problem is as old as schooling. But the government plans to push states to find a way to level the playing field, and that will lead to attacks on the individual teacher's choice of where to teach, and one fears, might make teaching even less attractive as a career.

This from Morning Education (via email):
The Education Department has ordered every state to develop strategies for ensuring that poor and minority students get their fair share of top teachers; the plans must be turned in by June 1. In the meantime, the department is highlighting the inequities states are Educator Equity Profiles" for every state and D.C. draw on data about the teaching corps from the 2011-12 school year. The general pattern is clear: Teachers in impoverished and heavily minority schools are more likely to be uncertified, to be rookies, to be considered 'not highly qualified,' to be at the low end of the salary scale and to be absent 10 or more days during the school year. But there are some striking differences between states. We've reviewed all the profiles and pulled out some statistics of note:
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- Poor and minority students in Pennsylvania are far less likely to be in classrooms with licensed, certified or highly qualified teachers. It's one of the biggest gaps in the nation: More than 20 percent of teacher in schools with heavily minority populations lack certification or licensure. In schools with low minority populations, just 0.2 percent of teachers lack those credentials.

- Louisiana has among the fewest highly qualified teachers in the U.S. About 20 percent of classes in high-poverty schools and 22 percent in high-minority schools are taught by educators who are not highly qualified. Even in Louisiana's wealthiest schools, nearly 8 percent of classes are taught by teachers who aren't highly qualified. The District of Columbia also has a high proportion of classes taught by teachers who aren't highly qualified, across all types of schools. (In general, a highly qualified teacher is one who is fully licensed by the state, holds a bachelor's degree and demonstrates competence in each core academic subject he teaches.)

- Florida doesn't have huge disparities among schools, but it appears to have very high teacher turnover. Nearly 20 percent of teachers are in their first year and about 15 percent lack proper certification. By contrast, in Michigan, less than 5 percent of teachers are rookies and less than 1 percent are unlicensed.

- There's a huge teacher salary gap in New York. The average teacher in a high-poverty school in the state earns $66,138 a year, compared to $87,161 for the average teacher in affluent schools. (Those numbers are adjusted to account for regional differences in the cost of living.) The gap likely stems from differences in credentials: Students in high-poverty schools are nearly three times more likely to have a first-year teacher, 22 times more likely to have an unlicensed teacher and 11 times more likely to have a teacher who isn't highly qualified.

- Rhode Island appears to have a big teacher absentee problem. An astounding 55 percent of teachers in high-poverty schools and 36 percent in low-poverty schools are absent more than 10 days in the school year. In some districts it's even worse: Nearly 70 percent of teachers in high-poverty schools in the town of Woonsocket miss more than 10 days a year. Other states with strikingly high absentee rates include Wyoming, New Mexico and Michigan.

- In California, the equitable distribution of effective teachers was a central issue in the Vergara trial. The federal data don't address effectiveness, but they do show some other, familiar disparities: High-poverty and high-minority schools are more likely to have first-year, unlicensed and not-highly-qualified teachers. On the other hand, gaps in teacher credentials and experience between rich and poor schools in California are far smaller than in some other states, such as New York and Delaware.

- A note of caution: The data come from existing federal sources, including the Civil Rights Data Collection and the Common Core of Data. State officials have complained in the past that those sources are riddled with errors. In Vermont, for instance, state officials put out a press release Friday announcing their intent to compare their published Educator Equity Profile with local data sources "which are considered more reliable." Still, Amy Fowler, deputy secretary of Vermont's education department, called the publication of the data profiles "an excellent opportunity" to take stock of important issues and work toward equity.

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