San Diego isn’t exceptional in the fact that schools in low-income neighborhoods tend to get teachers with less experience. Now the Obama administration’s lighting a fire under state superintendents to flatten out inequities nationwide.
In a letter released Monday, the Department of Education advised states to get plans together by June to make sure “public schools comply with existing federal law requiring that ‘poor and minority children are not taught at higher rates than other children by inexperienced, unqualified or out-of-field teachers,'” The New York Times reported.
This isn’t the first time: States submitted plans to deal with inequities back in 2006, but data shows they haven’t been entirely effective.
From the Times:
The Education Department will send each state data collected by the department’s Office for Civil Rights showing rates of teacher experience, certification, absenteeism and salary by school as well as student access to taxpayer-funded preschool and advanced courses in math and science.
The administration is also urging states to look at teacher evaluations to determine whether those who receive lower ratings are disproportionately assigned to schools with high proportions of racial minorities and students in poverty.
But the only requirement of states is that they ensure that teachers are equitably distributed based on experience and credentials.
In San Diego, schools in affluent areas, which often benefit from plenty of private school foundation money, on average tend to get teachers with more experience.
Teachers in the Scripps Ranch High cluster, for example, averaged about 17.5 years of experience last year, according to data from California’s Department of Education. That’s three years more than San Diego Unified’s district average, and four years more than the average for the Lincoln cluster, which has a higher rate of low-income students. Here’s what Mario Koran found back in March:
We Stand Up for You. Will You Stand Up for Us?
The answer is far simpler and has nothing to do with tenure, credentials, highly qualified, language, or age. If there is a class needing a teacher, whomever is "up" or next in line or just hired gets the class. Teachers already at a school generally stay there. As time wears on new teacher and older, ok, tenured teachers may change to another school. And, as a rule, the turnover rate for teachers, in the more "difficult schools", is very high. By turnover rate, I mean these teachers are either not coming back or decide to look for less stressful schools in other school districts or decide on another profession. Even in the "least" stressful schools the pressure is high to perform at a high level both for the student as the teacher. It takes years to perform at all well as a teacher. The most enthusiastic and energetic, new , young, and innovative teachers are not really good until about the 5th year. So, inequity? It's built into the system nationally.
Test scores correlate to income levels only. La Jolla and Scripps will ALWAYS have the highest test scores because they represent the highest income levels in San Diego. It is unfair and incorrect to say that bad teachers are in low income schools. This is usually the opposite. It is MUCH more difficult to educate children who are homeless, hungry, dealing with insecurity at home, etc. Many experienced teachers do choose to work at low income schools and are dedicated. In a low income school, you have to work against so many obstacles and really work to find ways the kids can learn. Often, there are better teachers at low income schools because they do have experience with all these other factors. Put an educator at La Jolla and the teacher can pretty much come in with any lesson plan, and most kids will agree to do it and most kids will fully understand it. Put that same teacher in a low income school, and many kids will not see the point of the work, and in turn be defiant. Or, they cannot read, so they become defiant. It takes skill to truly teach at low income schools. Don't believe me? Then go ahead, swap out teachers from high and low income schools. You will magically see the teachers from low income schools getting good test scores, and the teachers from high income schools getting lower test scores.
The teachers' unions have done a poor job in leading educational change in California; they are, with respect to the state's educational system, the most conservative voice around. Therefore they are subject to, and potentially victimized by, initiatives like this one from the Obama administration. With illegal immigration continuing to spill up from our southern border, inconsistent policy positions (the Obama administration continues to promote Teach For America, whose modus operandi depends upon placing minimally trained and experienced teachers in the neediest schools, precisely contrary to this policy) from Washington, D.C., and uncompetitive Common Core standards being implemented from Sacramento, it will be perfectly understandable if educators and families in San Diego and elsewhere in southern California take refuge outside the state school system -- for example, in private schools, which should be voucher-supported, and which should remain beyond the reach of all these outside forces striving for improvement but failing to take our children where they need to go.
Sounds a bit like correlation vs causation: Length of time a teacher has been teaching may be correlated to how qualified they are, but that won't necessarily satisfy the element within the DOE statement of "unqualified". I'd rather have qualified teachers that have only been around for 5 years than unqualified ones that are still there after 20. But obviously that's harder (and contentious) to measure.
This makes a case against Teach for America. TFA puts college graduates with a few weeks of training into low income areas. This says more experienced teachers are needed there.