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Improving The Distribution Of Teachers In Low-Performing High Schools


Nearly one hundred educators, policymakers, and other key stakeholders gathered on April 10 in Washington, DC to attend a forum addressing the distribution of highly effective teachers among low-performing high schools. The event was convened to release the Alliance for Excellent Education’s most recent publication, “Improving the Distribution of Teachers in Low-performing High Schools,” which was made possible through the generous support of the MetLife Foundation.

Bethany Little, vice president for policy and federal advocacy at the Alliance, thanked MetLife for its sponsorship and provided a brief introduction on one of the major problems facing low-performing schools: the inequitable distribution of teachers. Students in these schools, she explained, are disproportionally taught by teachers who lack the experience, qualifications, or effectiveness needed to improve student achievement.

Jeremy Ayers, a policy and advocacy associate at the Alliance, emphasized the huge impact effective teachers can have on low-performing students, noting, however, that low-achieving students are less likely to be assigned effective teachers. In order to understand and address the problem, Ayers continued, policymakers should leverage incentives that take into account the various factors affecting a person’s decision whether or not to become a teacher; factors such as where to work, how long to stay, salary, commuting distance, and working conditions.

Ayers then provided examples of programs employing promising practices to improve teacher preparation, increase teacher supply, improve recruitment and hiring processes, provide comprehensive induction, provide an environment of professionalism, strengthen career paths, and improve working conditions.

Ayers concluded with four key federal policy recommendations:

  1. Build, strengthen, and use data systems by building systems that are in accord with the Data Quality Campaign’s ten elements;
  2. Strengthen teacher preparation by increasing accountability for teacher effectiveness;
  3. Ensure equity in distribution by enforcing the Title I (of the No Child Left Behind Act) equity clause, providing guidance, and closing the comparability loophole; and
  4. Maximize federal funds by requiring a needs index based on sophisticated data.

A discussion panel specifically addressed teacher distribution issues raised in the brief

Wesley G. Williams II, director of the Office of Educator Equity in the Ohio Department of Education, emphasized the need for comprehensive approaches in hiring and retaining teachers. In Ohio, he explained, the Teacher Advancement Program (TAP) has been used to recruit teachers by offering job support and career ladder advancement opportunities, adding that the state has instituted district-level, teacher distribution data analysis to address inequitable distribution issues.

Panel members stressed that several types of data were necessary when addressing teacher distribution issues.

Tim Daly, president of the New Teacher Project, emphasized the value of looking at the percent of teacher vacancies filled without consent of both the teacher and school. Having this type of information could better aid in getting to the root of the problem, providing predictions on whether teachers will stay in vacancies within which they are placed, he explained. It is estimated, Daly continued, that assigning teachers to schools without the consent of either occurs more frequently in high-need schools. He also thought it would be interesting to gather data on how student behavior, like attendance, varies by school teacher. This form of evaluation, Daly explained, would be similar to how salespeople are evaluated on actual sales and not sales pitches.

Dr. Barnett Berry, president and CEO of the Center for Teaching Quality, addressed the need to collect information on teacher working conditions. “There are vast differences between teacher perceptions in elementary schools, middle schools, and high schools,” he explained, “and even more variations inside high schools that across high schools.”

Other important data requiring analysis, West added, includes teacher performance in the classroom and the ability to link teacher preparation programs to teachers.

In addressing the inequitable distribution of teachers, Berry noted that different kinds of teachers require different incentives. For example, a Teach for America member will need a different incentive over that of a veteran teacher or a mid-career changer.

It is also important to note that a false assumption exists that teachers prefer not to teach high-need, low-achievement children, Dr. Barbara Jenkins, chief of staff of Orange County (FL) Public School District asserted. The misconception may exist due to the number of job vacancies found at high-need schools at the beginning of the year, but it is not because teachers do not want to be there. Since high-need schools tend to hire teachers late in the process, the low number of candidates available to work at high-need schools might be more attributable to the hiring process than to teachers’ lack of desire to work at that school.

Rather, there are a fair number of teachers who are willing to teach at high-need schools, Jenkins explained. The key is to provide an “aura of success.” Not everyone who graduates from a teacher education program is capable of teaching in an urban setting, she said, but more can be done with the proper preparation. Teacher programs specifically geared towards those who want to teach in high-need schools can provide new teachers with the proper skills, background, and preparation to deal with high-need students, producing teachers who will be more likely to stay.

The panel also reflected on how central school district offices can aid in the improvement of teacher distribution. West asserted that early in the recruitment process, teachers should meet with principals, and principals, in turn, should market the school. Both leadership and human resource departments are critical to marketing needy schools, she explained. “The central office must be business-minded in order to attract the new generation.”

In addition, Daly stated that central offices must change their role. At present, they have concentrated on teacher certifications, requirements, benefits, and other administrative matters. However, central school district offices should also focus on developing human capital. Some districts have reorganized their central offices, allowing one department to address requirement issues while another focuses on recruitment.

“Money is necessary, but not sufficient,” Berry said. “Teachers need to find good leadership in their principals, to be treated as professionals and given more autonomy, provided with opportunities for increased collaboration and support networks, provided with classroom resources such as labs, and increased monetary investment.”


audioAudio* and videoVideo (Windows Media) of Entire Event

I. Welcome and Introduction

little_TD 2Bethany LittleVice President for Federal Policy and Advocacy, Alliance for Excellent Education videoVideo (Windows Media)

II. Remarks on the Brief: “Improving the Distribution of Teachers in Low-performing High Schools” PDF filePDF

ayers_TD 2Jeremy Ayers
Policy and Advocacy Associate, Alliance for Excellent Education videoVideo (Windows Media)

PresentationImproving the Distribution of Teachers in Low-performing High Schools PDF filePDF

III. Panel Discussion videoVideo (Windows Media)

berry_TD 2Dr. Barnett Berry
President and CEO, Center for Teaching Quality

daly_TD 2Tim Daly
President, The New Teacher Project

jenkins_TD 2Dr. Barbara Jenkins
Chief of Staff, Orange County (FL) Public School District

west_TD 2Dr. Jane West
Vice President for Government Relations, American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education

williams_TD 2Wesley G. Williams II
Director, Office of Educator Equity, Ohio Department of Education

IV. Audience Question & Answer

QA_TD 2videoVideo (Windows Media)

Other Event Material
Presentation Early Staffing and Faculty Equity

Categories: Uncategorized

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