Getting good teachers to inner-city schools

In An Effective Teacher in Every Classroom on Education Next, Ed Trust’s Kati Haycock and Hoover economist Eric Hanushek discuss teacher quality. Do inner-city schools get the worst teachers? What can be done to get good teachers to work in low-performing schools?

Poor and minority students are much more likely to be taught by less-qualified and less-effective teachers — including first-year teachers — Haycock says.

When the Tennessee Department of Education analyzed the state’s Value-Added Assessment System—which measures the impact of individual teachers on their students’ tested academic growth—it found that “low-income and minority children have the least access to the state’s most effective teachers and more access to the state’s least effective teachers.” Recently, researchers at the University of Virginia studying teaching practices and learning climate in more than 800 1st-grade classrooms were dismayed to find that lower-income and nonwhite students are much more likely than their counterparts to be placed in “lower overall quality classrooms.”

. . . An analysis of data from Los Angeles found that . . . providing top-quartile teachers rather than bottom-quartile teachers for four years in a row would be enough to completely close the achievement gap between white and African American students.

But it’s hard to get highly effective teachers to work in high-need schools, unless there’s a highly effective principal who creates the conditions — order, a coherent curriculum, teacher collaboration — that make good teaching possible.

Asked about bonuses for teaching in tough schools, Hanushek made a good point:

There is a simple economic axiom that bad teachers like more money as much as good teachers. Providing higher salaries will do little to improve the quality of urban teachers or teachers of disadvantaged students unless this is coupled with a clearer judgment about effectiveness. If the objective is raising achievement, there is no real substitute for observing achievement and taking actions based on it.

We can’t judge teacher quality by indirect means such as certification, master’s degrees or years of experience after the first three, Hanushek says. We have to look at “objective achievement data and subjective evaluations,” such as observing teachers teach.

Trying to solve the quality problem by moving teachers around would be expensive and futile, argues Mike Petrilli.

About Joanne