“Effective Teachers Key to Achieving Educational Equity Success”

This is the eighth in a series on achieving educational equity. Please refer to the initial post and explore articles on school finance, student discipline, advanced education, school closures, homework, and grading.

Education reformers previously held a firm belief that the achievement gap stemmed partly from a disparity in teacher quality. Documented in the Education Trust’s influential 1998 paper Good Teaching Matters, the prevailing sentiment was that more qualified teachers gravitated towards affluent schools, leaving high-poverty schools with less experienced educators. The inequitable funding structure, along with human resources practices and collective bargaining agreements, exacerbated this issue, prioritizing adult preferences over the needs of low-income and minority students.

The root cause of this disparity was discernible. Affluent districts had more resources and could offer higher salaries, leading experienced educators to the more privileged schools, leaving rookies to fill positions in high-poverty schools.

However, over the past twenty-five years, an expanding body of research has added complexity to this narrative.

Recent insights revealed that traditional measures of teacher quality, such as certification status and years of experience, are inadequate indicators of effectiveness, as concluded in studies. These metrics have limited relationship to student outcomes, with research suggesting that only three percent of teacher effectiveness can be attributed to these factors.

Moreover, the concept of an “effective teacher” is contentious, with evidence suggesting that teachers’ effectiveness varies across schools and student demographics. Studies show that Black teachers are more successful with Black students than their White counterparts.

Contrary to prior beliefs, some studies argue that the teacher effectiveness gap is non-existent when effectiveness is measured by consistent student achievement gains.

While evaluating teachers’ impact on students’ reading and math performance is common, assessing other subjects and factors like behavior and graduation rates remains a challenge. Current evaluations lack comprehensiveness, hindering the identification of disparities in subject-specific teacher quality.

Despite these challenges, progress is possible through targeted efforts like Washington, D.C.’s IMPACT system, which exemplifies a robust teacher evaluation approach that prioritizes equitable distribution of effective teachers.

IMPACT’s iterative improvements and precise evaluation criteria have proven beneficial, enhancing teacher effectiveness, diversity, and student outcomes.

Adopting similar systems in districts committed to equity can ensure all students receive quality instruction.

Implementing bold reforms like IMPACT encounters political obstacles, particularly resistance from unions striving to protect all members, even mediocre teachers. Overcoming these barriers necessitates a collective effort toward equitable teacher deployment.

In the absence of comprehensive evaluation systems, incentivizing teachers to work in high-need schools through financial incentives can drive positive change. By increasing salaries in challenging schools, districts like Houston are attracting top talent to address educational disparities.

While measuring teacher effectiveness beyond core subjects remains a challenge, enhancing teacher compensation in underserved schools is a crucial step towards achieving true equity.

Regardless of political affiliation, a concerted investment in addressing teacher quality disparities is essential for advancing educational equity. It’s time for actionable commitments to align with professed values.

Michael J. Petrilli is president of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, visiting fellow at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution, and an executive editor of Education Next.

This post originally appeared on the Fordham Institute’s Flypaper blog.

The post Doing Educational Equity Right: Effective Teachers appeared first on Education Next.

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