A comprehensive study done by the US Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights released Friday shows that students of color and English language learners are much more likely to be taught by lower-paid teachers with less experience when compared to white students.
The study, released Friday, used information from the nation’s public schools during the 2011-12 academic year. Black students are more than four times more likely as white students to attend schools where at least 20 percent of teachers haven’t met all state certification and licensing requirements.
The report also showed that there was a teacher salary gap of at least $5,000 a year between high schools with the highest concentration of black and Latino students and ones with the lowest concentration in nearly a quarter of all school districts that have at least two high schools.
This data indicates that some of the underrepresented groups of students who perhaps need strong teachers the most are often the ones in schools with first-year teachers and high turnaround rates.
While the data is eye-opening, it fails to even mention a vital component in teacher retention: strong school leadership.
We know that teachers are often attracted to schools because of principal quality, so this data leads us to believe that schools with higher of first-year teachers are also schools with a high principal turnover rate and/or a lack of strong leadership, whether at the school or district level.
This highlights the need for incentives to help principals recruit and retain teachers in schools to ensure that schools most in need of strong teachers and leaders don’t have to train a whole new group of teachers every year. Combating these high turnaround rates will require an investment in good induction and mentoring programs for new teachers so they feel like a valued member of a school’s staff and are encouraged to stay with their school year after year.
In addition, recruiting minority candidates and investing in grow-your-own teacher programs can help all students seethemselves reflected in the teaching force. Having strong examples of minority teachers in schools with high concentrations of black and Latino students will help these students see that teaching is a career option for them.
Another extremely troubling finding from the Office of Civil Rights’ data is that 20% of high schools in the country do not have a school counselor. Counselors play a vital role in ensuring students graduate college and career-ready and all students deserve a committed staff member who can help them understand what courses they need to take in order to reach their academic goals and assist them in setting post-graduate goals, including helping them with applying for financial aid for post-secondary education. On top of helping with the academic concerns of students, students who attend a school with no counselor miss out on social and emotional support that can be critical for some.
NASSP strongly supports the American School Counselor Association recommendation of 1:250 school counselor to student ratio for maximum effectiveness, in addition to our support of various legislation that would fund additional counselors, social workers, and school psychologists.
As a member of the Coalition for Teaching Quality, NASSP will work to ensure that all students attend schools led by high-quality principals with high-quality teachers in every classroom. Our efforts will include legislative proposals at the federal and state levels to improve the preparation, training, and professional development of teachers and principals.