Saturday, October 25, 2014

How Do We Increase Teacher Quality in Low-Income Schools?

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By Cindy Long

An eighth grade math class in Oakland, California, had so many substitute teachers in one year the students couldn’t keep track of them, let alone remember all their names. They live in a high-poverty neighborhood where school funding is so low the district finds it cheaper to hire a series of substitutes rather than pay a full-time teacher. As a result, the eighth graders don’t have access to a high quality teacher, or the chance to learn very much math.

As Congress takes up the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), education experts are urging lawmakers to address pay and funding issues that cause major inequities in the teaching talent at public schools in Oakland and around the country. According to most studies, low-income schools with high minority populations are three to ten times more likely to have unqualified teachers than students in more affluent, predominantly white schools.

In a new report, “Speaking of Salaries: What It Will Take to Get Qualified, Effective Teachers in All Communities,” Linda Darling-Hammond, a professor of education at Stanford University, and Frank Adamson, a postdoctoral scholar at Stanford, examine how and why teacher quality is unevenly distributed.

They started by looking at California and New York – two large states that face similar demographic diversity and educational challenges.

Although New York’s schools are, on average, much better funded – at more than $17,000 per pupil in state and local funding in 2007, compared to California’s $9,700 – both receive a wide range of funding across districts, as is true in most states in the country. The authors found that the inequalities in teacher qualifications in the two states are strongly related to differences in overall school funding and teacher salaries, which in turn are related to student achievement.

Common sense would dictate that schools with the highest need would receive the most funding and teachers who are most qualified to tackle the challenges these schools pose. In fact, the opposite is true.

“The schools with the least qualified teachers usually have a lot of other problems too,” said Darling-Hammond at a recent panel discussion at the Center for American Progress in Washington, D.C. The problems range from lack of administrative support to poor working conditions to little access to materials like new textbooks and technology.

“These schools then become dumping grounds for poor and minority students as well as unqualified teachers,” she says.

Poor teacher salaries combined with low overall funding leads to difficulty recruiting and retaining educators other than those who are new to the profession, or those who couldn’t find jobs anywhere else.

The Comparability Loophole

The purpose of the federal Title I program is to give extra resources to schools with low-income students. Federal rules require that districts continue to give these schools their fair share of state and local money. One reason that funding remains low at the schools that need it most is because of a loophole in the Title I funding provision.

Linda Darling-Hammond

In exchange for Title I money, each state and district must guarantee, among other things, that all Title I schools receive “comparable” portions of state and local funding. However, a district can comply by merely counting the number of teachers at each school and comparing them to the number of students enrolled, rather than comparing the dollar amounts spent on those teachers’ salaries. As long as the teacher-student ratios are equal at every school, the district has met its obligation.

This “comparability loophole” allows districts to make it look as if all teachers make the same amount of money when most everyone knows there are huge disparities.

On average, schools with low-income students have fewer veteran teachers who are at the top of the salary scale. Some stay, but others burn out in the high-stress environment and transfer to more affluent schools with better resources.

As a result, higher paid, more experienced teachers wind up in more affluent schools, and lower-paid, less qualified teachers wind up at low income schools, triggering a cycle of inequity.

In their report, Linda Darling-Hammond and Frank Adamson recommend that Congress close the loophole by ensuring that ESEA comparability provisions work as they were intended – to provide equitable funding and equally qualified teachers to schools serving different populations of students.

They also recommend:

  • Increasing and equalizing salaries to improve the pool of teachers and level the playing field across districts
  • Raising all teacher standards, knowledge and skills with stronger preparation and licensing processes and extensive professional development
  • Improving new teacher retention through mentoring

They recommend against incentive, or “combat pay,” not only because there is no evidence that these types of programs work, but because, as NEA Director of Collective Bargaining and Member Advocacy Bill Raabe – also a panelist at Friday’s discussion – points out, an incentive called “combat pay” isn’t going to appeal to many would-be applicants.

“Why would we want to send anyone – teacher or student — into ‘combat’ schools,” asks Raabe. “We know what attracts the best into the profession – high pay accompanied by good working conditions, appropriate evaluations, and professional development. Incentives don’t work, especially when they’re put on top of a low base salary.”

________________________________________________

Raising starting salaries is the main goal of NEA’s professional pay campaign. Find out more at www.nea.org/pay

Comments

24 Responses to “How Do We Increase Teacher Quality in Low-Income Schools?”
  1. roger says:

    Paying teachers more in salaries won’t cure the problem. This has always been the NEA solution is to throw more money at the problem maybe it will go-away. Low-income schools need more helpers and teachers with more one on one time with students. This doesen’t mean increasing teacher’s pay.

    Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 9 Thumb down 6

  2. Allison says:

    I am an EBD teacher who has been working in a low-income school for the last three years, and I have never been treated with less respect than I was by the administration and the district. I have had colleagues (really accomplished, experienced, talented colleagues) who have been more or less “forced out” by the principal (who changes every year and has never been a teacher by training) for reasons including dirty classroom floors, late grading, and in my case, I was told that I would be put on an improvement plan because I had used most of my contracted sick days in one year (I have lupus). In the end, the union helped me to avoid an improvement plan by explaining to our principal how the contract worked–that I could not be punished for using my sick days. So, in spite of the fact that I came into the profession with deep convictions about working in an urban school, I am moving to suburban school for next year–I felt like it was a choice between that and leaving teaching. Roughly 50% of the teaching staff at the school I am at are leaving in response to the current business managers running the school coming back for another year.

    If you want to get higher quality teachers into low-income schools, make it a place that a person can effectively work and be treated with respect.

    Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 20 Thumb down 0

  3. Herbert Belcher says:

    I am astonished! No one gets it! It is easy to get quality teachers to work in the inner city or low performing schools. Assign them to work there. A simple answer. Today, we pay a differential to those teachers who work in the low performing schools, force them to do more with less time, and then summarily trash their careers when they do not perform by giving them poor evaluations. No wonder no one wants to work in these schools. You got to be a sociopath to do so!

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 1

  4. Cindy A says:

    Teachers know How to TEACH! We do not need more evaluations or meetings or panels. I taught for nearly five years in an MPS school in Milwaukee and really loved it at first. But then I realized that most of us were not being supported by the principals nor some of the associate principals, especially this past school year. We had a team from Miami (nice people) coming in to teach students to test well! oh My, that’s really only one small part of teaching studnets except it does help get money. If you know anything about the teaching profession, students need to do portfolios and other work besides just being rated on standardized tests.
    What is really needed especially in inner city schools and probably other schools, is a system where principals as well as many associate principals need to teach in a “regular” classroom at least 2 to 3 weeks out of the year- not that piece of cake honors class with 11 students or so, but how about 50 regular and IEp studnets in a British Literature class,w hich by the way was not taught at the high school I was at for at lest 5 years according to a former literacy coach there. So,much for fairness.
    Indeed, the problem seems to start from the top down and only a brave few teachers are willing to stand up for what is truly right. If you’re favored by an administrator at many of these MPS high schools, you often sail through; I found this out as well as some of my trusted colleagues after about three years, and especially after the start of the 2011-12 school year. It is so sad. Not only are student being entitled by some teachers, whom principals think are really teaching well, but students most of all are being entitled because apparently they just want to get them through the system. I have this documented. Despite recent reports by our local press that some MPS schools are doing better in grades and testing, this is really not the case if you could see the true figures; for example some students are passed by teachers and administroators even when a teacher refuses to pass them; they have not eanred the grade, it’s simply changed. Yes. This was the case I had – a student with a 15 percent average, yes this student had some rough times, but then failed to give me late work which I was ordered to take, and then faiiled by show up for the final exam. Of course I failed him- how would I help him or society if I passed him??? I thought this was a no-brainer, but an associate principal said it was too bad to me that I couldn’t pass him, she said he had been through so much -yes he had some rugh times, but that was the year before and he was very bright but also out of control)he need help not entitlement! She asked me to pass him! I refused, Guess what, he was suppose to be moved to another school.’dfrom this school, but he was not. I believe he left becasue of fighting. He was placed in another teacher’s room who continued to “enable” him more. And this was the associate principal who told me in the beginning of the year and I quote, “I’ll be there for you.”
    Honestly, if the public really knew what was going on in some of these MpS,not all schools ( they do need unions more than ever) they wouldn’t believe it. Favortism, lack of respect for teachers, by the end of the first semester I would say almost no one in the department I was in, except those who were friends were commmunicating with one another; everyone was burned out or demoralized because of all these nonsensical collaborative meetings, which could have been put into more enegaging lessons plans or more one one one time with students. i’m not saying all collabortive meetings are bad, how about oncea month or twice? I had to use a cliche, but it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to know what you have to do to teach. Most of my students really tried, but the few who didn’t shouldl have been sent to an alternative school by the administrators. No, they were sent right back up to classrooms,despite weapons, fights; a major problem with the use of an Android phone and facebook occurred in may classroom, I could go on and on. So, desite recent reports of TV camersa showing that test scores have improved at some schools and all is well with teachers, believe me unfortnately this is not the entire story. Students have been shoved thruogh this system so long that now they expect it. Some teachers just go along with this. many are working very hard, some never take homework home to correct if they are favored by a principal who cares?? It is a tough profession and if you don’t have the time to spend late nights correcting and have a young family, today I really think the teacing profession will need to look elsewehre for teachers- what’s going to come first a teaacher’s family or the profession- you can guess that one.
    So, at least let TEACHers teach, not do paper attendance charts in addition to taking attendance on the computer, trust us we do know how to teach. most of us also know how to communicate very well, but it is true some teachers do need help in that area; if a person does not know how to realte to others they need a communication course so i admit some teahers do need some assistance in that area just like students, so it takes some really good administrators ( and I have had a few really excellen ones- one has moved on anohter is retiring ) who know how to handle some of these situations,w hich I won’t go into in this piece. Teachers, who really, really teach and are not just playing “games” with students or working on masters or PHds in class (my god how did we get to that point ) have my respect. They need yours too- not another panel. Cindy A

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  5. Cindy A says:

    Teachers know How to TEACH! We do not need more evaluations or meetings or panels. I taught for nearly five years in an MPS school in Milwaukee and really loved it at first. I was well prepared for this job, i did need some help with classroom managment in some cases, but then I realized that it didn’t matter that much because those teachers who really got support were favored by some of the administration. yes, politics does exist a lot in schools; but what we need are more values and ethics, not panels. But then I realized that most of us were not being supported by the principals nor some of the associate principals, especially this past school year. We had a team from Miami (nice people) coming in to teach students to test well! Oh My, that’s really only one small part of teaching studnets, except it does help get money. If you know anything about the teaching profession, students need to do portfolios and other work besides just being rated on standardized tests. They need to develop a relationship with a teacher- I know this from raising my own children, who thankfully now have all good jobs and are contributing to society.
    What is really needed especially in inner city schools and probably other schools, is a system where principals as well as many associate principals need to teach in a “regular” classroom at least 2 to 3 weeks out of the year- not that piece of cake honors class with 11 students or so, but how about 50 regular and IEp studnets in a British Literature class like I had and did teach staying until midnight at least once a week and often until 10 or 11 p.m. ohter, which by the way was not taught at the high school I was at for at lest 5 years according to a former literacy coach there. I was given it by an administrator who directed the person doing porgramming to give it to me.So,much for fairness.
    Indeed, the problem seems to start from the top down and only a brave few teachers are willing to stand up for what is truly right. Granted, i understand some are near retirement, but at least we all need to support one another. If you’re favored by an administrator at many of these MPS high schools, you often sail through; I found this out as well as some of my trusted colleagues after about three years, and especially after the start of the 2011-12 school year. Most of us thought things would start to get better, with the exception of the collective bargaining which went in 2011 with Walker. It is so sad. Not only are student being entitled by some teachers, whom principals think are really teaching well, but students most of all are being entitled because apparently they just want to get them through the system. I have this documented. yes, I understand principals and assoicates are under pressure, but not eveyone is bowing to this pressure. There are some administrators- a few I deeply respect and they respected me as a person and teacher.
    Despite recent reports by our local press that some MPS schools are doing better in grades and testing, this is really not the case if you could see the true figures; for example ,some students are passed by teachers and administrators even when a teacher refuses to pass them; they have not earnedthe grade, it’s simply changed. Yes. This was the case I had – a student with a 15 percent average, yes this student had some rough times, but then failed to give me late work which I was ordered to take, and then failed by show up for the final exam. Of course I failed him- how would I help him or society if I passed him??? I thought this was a no-brainer, but an associate principal said it was too bad to me that I couldn’t pass him, she said this student had been through so much -yes this person had some rugh times, but that was the year before and this student was very bright and could have done that work, but this student was also out of control)and needed help not entitlement! She asked me to pass this studen! I refused, Guess what, he was suppose to be moved to another school.’from this school, but was not. I believe the studentfinally left because of fighting. In thie meantime, the sstudent was placed in another teacher’s room who continued to “enable” the student more. And this was the associate principal who told me in the beginning of the year and I quote, “I’ll be there for you.”
    Honestly, if the public really knew what was going on in some of these MpS,not all schools ( they do need unions more than ever) they wouldn’t believe it. Favoritism, lack of respect for teachers, by the end of the first semester I would say almost no one in the department I was in, except those who were friends were commmunicating with one another; everyone was burned out or demoralized because of all these nonsensical collaborative meetings, which could have been put into more enegaging lessons plans or more one one one time with students. i’m not saying all collabortive meetings are bad, how about oncea month or twice? I had to use a cliche, but it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to know what you have to do to teach. Most of my students really tried, but the few who didn’t should have been sent to an alternative school by the administrators. No, they were sent right back up to classrooms,despite weapons, fights; a major problem with the use of an Android phone and facebook occurred in may classroom, I could go on and on. So, desite recent reports of TV cameras and news reports showing that test scores have improved at some schools and all is well with teachers, believe me unfortnately this is not the entire story. Students have been shoved thruogh this system so long that now they expect it. Some teachers just go along with this. many are working very hard, some never take homework home to correct if they are favored by a principal who cares?? It is a tough profession and if you don’t have the time to spend late nights correcting and have a young family, today I really think the teaching profession will need to look elsewehre for teachers- what’s going to come first a teacher’s family or the profession- you can guess that one.
    So, at least let TEACHers
    Teach, not do paper attendance charts in addition to taking attendance on the computer, trust us we do know how to teach. Most of us also know how to communicate very well, but it is true some teachers do need help in that area; if a person does not know how to relate appropriately to others they need a communication course so they aren’t yelling in the hallway, so I admit some teachers do need some assistance in that area just like students, so it takes some really good administrators= ‘with it and honest ones ( and I have had a few really excellent ones- one has moved on and he was always in the halls; another is retiring – as well as an excellent secretarial staff overall) who know how to handle some of these situations,w hich I won’t go into in this piece. Teachers, who really, really teach and are not just playing “games” with students or working on masters or PHds in class (my god how did we get to that point ) have my respect and support. They need yours too- not another panel. Cindy A

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

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