Statement from The Education Trust-Midwest on the U.S. Department of Education’s Teacher Equity Strategy
ROYAL OAK, MICH. (July 7, 2014) — Today U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan announced his intention to focus new energy on the problem of unequal access to quality teachers. Congress first outlawed this practice in 2002. But that provision of federal law has mostly been ignored.
“We hope today’s action provides Michigan a fresh opportunity to do better on this issue at the state and district level,” said Amber Arellano, executive director of The Education Trust-Midwest. “For too long, our tendency to assign the strongest teachers disproportionately to our most advantaged students has compromised the futures of millions of low-income students and students of color.”
Research tells us why this issue is so important to students of color and low-income children:
- According to a national survey of teachers, core classes in our nation’s high-poverty schools are twice as likely to be taught by out-of-field teachers as are classes in low-poverty schools.
- Researchers found that in Washington State, disadvantaged students get less than their fair share of the strongest teachers, regardless of the measure used.
- An Ed Trust—West analysis shows that in the Los Angeles Unified School District, Latino and African-American students are two to three times more likely to have low-performing teachers than their white and Asian peers.
“As long as these teacher quality gaps persist, we will never achieve our national values of equity and opportunity for all Americans,” Arellano said. “Thankfully, these gaps are not inevitable. Michigan leaders and school districts can take steps to get strong teachers to the low-income students and students of color who need and deserve them.”
Arellano added: “It’s important to note Michigan’s on-going work to improve teacher evaluation practices, teacher preparation, and licensure. They are necessary and important, though it is not enough. They are first steps toward raising the quality of the teaching profession, but they will not ensure that students of color and low-income students get more of the strongest teachers. That will only happen with targeted action that expects, prioritizes, and removes barriers to equitable access.”
Some states and districts are already leading the way and can serve as exemplars.
- Through their Strategic Staffing Initiative, the Charlotte-Mecklenberg School District has been working for years to get especially strong principals and teachers to its highest poverty schools.
- In partnership with Teach Plus, Boston Public Schools and the District of Columbia Public Schools are working to attract and retain strong teachers to the lowest performing schools by providing opportunities for shared decision-making and career growth through formal teacher leadership roles.
- Florida prohibits districts from disproportionately assigning poorly performing and out-of-field teachers to the lowest performing schools.
Deborah Veney Robinson, vice president for government affairs at The Education Trust, said:
“These states and districts haven’t yet solved the problem of equitable access – but they’ve moved in the right direction by asserting responsibility and taking action. Done well, the Department’s teacher equity strategy can make this kind of leadership the rule rather than the exception. The nation’s low-income students and students of color have already waited far too long for action.”
“To be sure, there are outstanding teachers in every community and every school,” Robinson added. “But the evidence is clear: any way the data are analyzed — by teacher experience, content knowledge, churn, absenteeism, or effectiveness at growing student learning — low-income students and students of color get less than their white, more affluent peers.”
The Education Trust-Midwest is Michigan’s only state-wide, non-partisan education research, information and advocacy organization focused on what is best for Michigan students. Our mission is to work for the high achievement of all students, particularly low-income, African-American, Latino and American-Indian students in Michigan, and to provide honest, reliable education information and expertise to our state’s families and policymakers.