Schools serving students of color and students from low-income families have double the percentage of inexperienced and unqualified teachers—particularly at the secondary level—along with higher teacher and principal turnover, according to a new report from the Alliance for Excellent Education (the Alliance). The report, One Year Later: Can State Equity Plans Improve Access to Great Teaching?, is based on an analysis of the teacher equity plans that states submitted to the U.S. Department of Education (ED) last summer.
“Access to effective teaching is as important to student success as wheels to a bicycle,” said Alliance President Gov. Bob Wise. “That’s why it is so important that both the federal government and states have recognized the importance of identifying and closing these gaps in access through state equity plans. Before you can fix a problem, you must first identify it.”
To address the problem of inequitable access to effective teachers, ED asked each state to submit a plan by June 1, 2015, to ensure that students from low-income families and students of color are not taught by inexperienced, unqualified, or out-of-field teachers at higher rates than other children. One Year Later provides an overview of the gaps states identified in students’ access to high-quality teaching, examines the root causes for these gaps, and highlights promising approaches for eliminating them.
Overall, state teacher equity plans show that a lack of access to great teaching is most acute in high-need districts and schools. In Massachusetts, for example, 34.2 percent of teachers in schools with the highest proportion of students from low-income families were considered inexperienced, unqualified, ineffective, or were teaching out of their field, compared to only 11.2 percent of teachers in schools with the lowest proportion of students from low-income families. A similar disparity exists between schools with the highest and lowest percentages of students of color, as shown in the graph from the report shown below.
To address these gaps, Massachusetts is implementing a series of steps, including aligning educator preparation programs with district needs; ensuring that teacher preparation programs include course work, field-based experiences with emphasis on teaching diverse learners, social-emotional development, and English language development; linking data from educator preparation programs to the academic growth of students in K–12 schools; and tracking individual student access to experienced, prepared, and effective teachers over a three- to five-year period.
Some states, such Kentucky and Delaware, are working to ensure that educators have the competencies to work effectively in high-need schools. States such as Wisconsin are establishing standards regarding the knowledge and competencies teachers need to enter the profession. Other states are reorienting teacher preparation around supervised clinical preparation and strengthening partnerships with K–12 schools.
“Most states identify teacher preparation, as currently designed, as a major factor in limiting students’ access to skilled, experienced teachers,” said Mariana Haynes, author of the report and senior fellow at the Alliance. “Preparation programs continue to be lax in candidate selection and driven by what institutions of higher education want to offer—not by what schools or teachers need. In response, states are moving to develop a teacher development system that is performance-based and anchored in professional teaching standards.”
The report also focuses on state efforts to increase teacher retention and effectiveness, noting that teacher turnover is the highest among beginning teachers. Currently, however, only four states (Delaware, Connecticut, Hawaii, and Iowa) are funding multiple-year induction programs to ensure that beginning teachers receive the support they need to succeed. Other states, such as Kentucky, included detailed mentoring and induction programs within their teacher equity plans, understanding the tremendous costs—both financially and in student achievement—associated with chronic teacher turnover. According to a July 2014 study by the Alliance, these costs range from $2 million a year in Delaware to $235 million a year in Texas.
“The lack of access to effective teaching among students of color and students from low-income families cannot be a problem that the nation simply decides to live with—the impact on students and communities is too great,” said Wise.
Under the recently enacted Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), which replaced the No Child Left Behind Act, states and school districts must publicly report annual data on students’ access to qualified, experienced educators and describe how they will identify and address gaps in access. ESSA also authorizes federal funding to support these efforts and prioritizes investments in programs based on evidence of program impact and cost effectiveness. (For more information on teacher and leader provisions under ESSA, visit https://all4ed.org/essa/#Teachers.)
In conjunction with the release of One Year Later, the Alliance held a webinar that featured Gov. Bob Wise; Mariana Haynes; Ellen Moir and Liam Goldrick from the New Teacher Center; and Angela Iudica from Broward County Public Schools (Florida). Archived video from the webinar is available “on demand” at https://all4ed.org/webinar-event/may-26-2016/.
One Year Later: Can State Equity Plans Improve Access to Great Teaching? is available at https://all4ed.org/reports-factsheets/teacherequityplans/.