The Bulletin Board | Educators for Excellence

Educators for Excellence | September 2019

Language can obscure the truth. 

People use phrases like the school “on the other side of the tracks” or “southside.” We’ve all heard it before. But the truth is, these words just avoid confronting what is really going on.

In reality, our education system can be boiled down to a tale of two schools. 

Here’s a real-life example of this divide happening right now at two schools in Minneapolis. 

As you can see, School A serves whiter, wealthier families, while School B serves mostly students of color from families experiencing poverty. The opportunities for students in School B are not the same as School A.

And really, so much of the divide between these two schools comes down to teachers. We know teachers are the most important in-school factor for kids. There are many, many effective and dedicated educators in our under-resourced schools. But there are also systemic disparities in the experience and expertise of teachers in communities represented by School A and B. 

In School B, the lower median salary not only demonstrates the greener teaching staff who are paid less, but also the lower teacher retention. 

In fact, studies consistently conclude that students attending schools serving low-income communities and communities of color are more likely than others to have students:

  • Taught by less-qualified and less-experienced teachers;
  • Taught by teachers assigned to classes outside their content area or grade-level specialization; 
  • Taught by teachers trained at less competitive colleges or universities; and
  • Attend schools with higher teacher-turnover rates.

How much have you seen teacher turnover impact your school? A lot, a little, none. This’ll help us get to the heart of the matter when we dive deeper into teacher retention in the next issue. 

Having a strong, consistent teacher makes a huge difference.

Syeita Rhey-Fisher (her friends call her “Sy”), a fourth-grade social studies teacher in Hartford, Connecticut knows the power of an amazing teacher.

“Growing up in the foster care system, I lived a lot of the challenges my students now face. My foster parents didn’t have the educational background to help me with my school work. It’s important to put teachers in front of kids who can really get to know them and push them.”

Check out the rest of her story in the newest Chalk Talk here.

But what if the schools facing the most challenges had access to the best resources - especially teachers?

Elected leaders, districts, and administrators not only have the responsibility to fund schools fairly and equitably to ensure all students have the resources they need to be successful; they also need to put policies in place to attract and retain skilled educators in every school, so every child has access to great teachers.

To do this, E4E educators have recommended providing salary incentives to attract talented, experienced teachers to hard-to-staff schools and subjects. Nationwide, teachers agree to this approach, with 75% supporting the proposal in our 2018 Voices from the Classroom survey and 80% in the poll we took last month from our Bulletin Board readers.

But despite this overwhelming popularity among educators (and that it makes a lot of sense), policymakers and most teachers unions have been reluctant to advocate for these pay increases. If you want to know why, attend the next union meeting and ask your union leadership, write to your superintendent, and/or call on your state representatives. 

All this is to say that policymakers and unions need to watch their language and recognize the need for equity between the A and B schools when it comes to all resources, especially those in the front of the classroom. 

- The E4E Team


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