Equity of Access to Quality Teachers

equity

Reposted from the Brookings Institute:

An ideal policy guaranteeing students equitable access to effective teachers could reduce a small amount of the achievement gap (about seven percent of it, the 2-point reduction divided by the 28-point base).  The effect might be larger in some districts, and might have a greater impact in middle schools. And that’s the ideal policy. The actual effect would likely be smaller. The effect also relates only to narrowing the gap. It’s hard to predict what will happen to overall achievement. It could go up or down.

Most districts have collective-bargaining contracts that give experienced teachers “seniority preference” for posted positions within the district. Teachers can use this preference to get positions in more affluent schools, which is rational considering that most districts have “single salary” schedules that pay teachers the same no matter where they teach. Some of these agreements allow districts to move teachers to schools where districts believe they are needed, but whether districts would exercise this flexibility on a scale that would reduce inequities is unclear. And eliminating seniority preferences in the contracts would presumably come at a cost to districts, unless unions are willing to accept nothing in return.

Are there other and possibly less burdensome policies that could reduce the gap? Several come to mind. High-poverty schools could be provided with additional resources—say, the funds to pay $5,000 a year more to hire the most promising candidates from teacher-preparation programs in the first place. Or these schools could be given additional resources to attract high-performing teachers, which another IES study showed led to score gains. Or teachers could be paid more if their value-added reaches some target level, and more on top of that if many of their students are disadvantaged, which might raise the overall achievement level and close gaps at the same time. The DC public schools system currently pays bonuses to teachers using a structure like this.

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