Monday, November 06, 2006

The Elephant in the Room

The Hartford Courant has yet another article pointing out the inequality between the wealthy school districts and those that lack money. They offer four findings from the recent study.

1. The state's wealthiest school districts were more likely than poorer districts to hire teachers with master's degrees and at least one year of experience.
I know that President Bush and Ms. Spellings believe that a Master's Degree makes one a better teacher, but from my experience, there are just as many non-Master's Degree teachers, with fewer years of service, who have the ability to not only convey information, but to connect with the students. Yes, a high level of expertise in one's content area is important. But considering that most state exams, the tools used to discover if any children are being left behind, are a minimum competency test, maybe it is more important to have student "buy in."

2. Schools in high-poverty school districts generally had more difficulty filling jobs and lost more teachers to transfers than they gained.
I teach at a school that is experiencing an economic shift. As the economics of our school has changed, so have the extra-curricular problems. When teachers, especially those who crave the opportunity to make a difference, observe apathetic students from apathetic parents, they becom discouraged. High poverty schools tend to present demoralizing issues that hinder the classroom experience. Though, wealthy schools tend to present confounding issues as well; but those seem more bearable because parents tend to at least feign interest.

3. The heavy volume of paperwork in recruiting teachers, especially in large school districts, often slowed down the hiring process.
I've complained here before about some of the large districts I've dealt with. My own district has lost a number of potentially great teachers because of the many layers a candidate must navigate.

4. Some schools had poor support and mentoring systems for new teachers. About one-third of newly hired teachers in the 11 districts in the survey said they intended to leave their current school or district.
I can't speak for those that would choose to leave because of poor mentoring. The availability for support and mentoring doesn't have to be formal. I've learned a great deal simply by interacting with my peers, both tenured and non-tenured. But the lack of support certainly could dissuade an individual from returning.

Okay, so we've been given the task of educating our students. We've been shown that wealthy students tend to outperform the poor. We've been told that the reason for this is the teacher. But could it also be the student? Could the parents be a part of the problem? Instead of pointing to how unequipped the teachers are because they don't have a Master's Degree, perhaps we should be thankful that someone wants to go into the toughest schools. Because seriously, how many Master's Degree educated teachers want to take on the toughest students?

I'm all for holding teachers accountable, but I really think it is time we hold a few others accountable as well.


At 4:45 AM , Blogger CaliforniaTeacherGuy said...

I'm a special ed teacher in a Title 1 school--the majority of kids qualify for free lunch. The rate of apathy among students runs high, especially among my students with IEPs. But I am delighted that on our IEP goals page, we can mark a box and hold the student accountable for his or her learning. What a novel idea! It's not all up to the teacher after all!

At 10:43 AM , Blogger Benjamin Whelan said...

Just for a point of referrence.... before teachers in Connecticut are elligible for tenure, they must get a masters. It is a state requirement for certification there.

I taught in urban schools in Connecticut for a few years before moving out of state.


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