Philadelphia students told a congressman what happens when inner-city schools can’t hire qualified teachers.
Instead of learning math, Yusef Perry said, he and his ninth-grade classmates at Sayre High School played basketball. Latoya Andrews and other biology students at Simon Gratz High endured weeks of being split up among other classes.
Kenneth Ramos, who attends Kensington High, had no geometry teacher for four weeks this year.
“We have more long-term subs than regular teachers at Kensington,” he said. “Some of them don’t know what they’re doing. Sometimes I wake up and sit on the side of my bed and wonder what I’m going to school for.”
The teachers’ contract lets teachers choose their assignments based on seniority. As teachers gain experience, they can transfer to easier jobs, leaving behind low-income, high-minority schools.
Philadelphia is now offering bonuses for those who take difficult teaching assignments, and is trying to renegotiate the contract to ensure that all schools get their share of qualified teachers.
Chicago has improved teacher quality — and recruited a lot more math teachers — by streamlining alternative certification, says the Chicago Tribune.
Often they are people in mid-career who simply decide they would rather serve as teachers. Many are bankers, accountants, engineers, saleswomen, lawyers and scientists. They have life experience and they’ve developed an expertise in their field. Now they want to teach.
. . . “They’re a different caliber of people: smarter, more mature, more committed and more in it for the long haul,” said Chicago Public Schools Chief Arne Duncan.
Eduwonk has some other links to teacher quality stories, and points out that No Child Left Behind’s insistence that “poor kids get good teachers” is not as horrible as progressives seem to think.
Update: Here’s a “tipping point” plan to attract good teachers to difficult schools:
Lower class sizes, clean and safe schools, up-to-date materials, and state of the art technology are among the incentives some districts are using to lure personnel to their hard-to-staff schools. While these are important, the single most important incentive for principals and teachers — the one that has the greatest chance of convincing them that they can make a difference in these highly demanding schools — is the promise of membership on a competent and committed team of teachers and administrators. The Tipping Point plan is designed to lead dysfunctional schools to the point where they “tip” — a point where teachers and administrators come and stay because together, as a team, they are able to create successful learning experiences for their students.
This makes a lot of sense to me.