The Education Trust releases Their Fair Share Report and web tool exposing gaps in teacher quality in Texas

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Publication date: 
February 7 2008 (All day)

New Study of Texas’s 50 Largest School Districts Finds Significant Teacher Quality Gaps Throughout The State

Report and Accompanying Web-Based Data Tool Expose how Poor and Minority Students are Being Denied Their Fair Share of the State’s Most Experienced Teachers

WASHINGTON  – According to a report released today by The Education Trust, low-income students, Hispanic students and African-American students in the 50 largest school districts in Texas are less likely to be assigned to fully certified teachers, less likely to be assigned to experienced teachers, and less likely to attend a school with a stable teaching force than are other students educated in those very same districts.

“These children often enter school behind and need strong teachers to help them catch up. But too many school districts do exactly the opposite of what fairness and common sense would suggest,” said Kati Haycock, President of The Education Trust. “Not only does this pattern of teacher assignment undercut the life chances of hundreds of thousands of young Texans, but it also undercuts the future of the state as a whole.”

Their Fair Share: How Texas-Sized Gaps in Teacher Quality Shortchange Poor and Minority Students, the latest in a series from The Education Trust, documents sometimes stunning inequities in teacher credentials, teacher experience, teacher turnover and average teacher salaries among schools within the 50 largest Texas school districts. It also describes how these inequities stack the deck against the educational success of low-income students and students of color throughout the state. 

A new Education Trust Web-based data tool found at http://www.theirfairshare.org will, for the first time, allow parents, policymakers and the public more generally to examine district-by-district and school-by-school patterns of teacher distribution in the 50 largest school districts in Texas. The website, which launched today, provides detailed information about teacher certification, teacher experience, teacher turnover and the resulting average teacher salary differences.

“Many people are quick to attribute a school’s performance to the home lives of its students,” said Paul Ruiz, Senior Advisor at San Antonio-based EdTrust-Southwest. “But the reality is that what schools do matters a lot. And as most parents know, nothing matters more than good teaching.”

According to the report, the schools educating the most low-income and minority students are more likely to employ teachers who lack full certification or have fewer than three years of teaching experience than are schools with only a few such students. And the highest-poverty and highest-minority schools are also likely to have higher teacher turnover rates than other schools.

Among the findings for the state as a whole:

  • In Texas high schools serving the highest percentages of low-income students, more than one in three teachers lack full certification in the subjects they are teaching.
  • In Algebra I, one of the most important courses in high school, nearly 30 percent of the teachers in the highest-poverty schools are not fully certified in mathematics.

And this problem occurs not just in shortage areas like mathematics: nearly half of English I teachers working in the high schools with the highest proportion of African-American students lack certification in English.

Among districts, the differences are often stark:

  • Students attending Austin’s highest-minority schools are twice as likely – and those attending the highest-poverty schools are three times as likely – to be taught by a novice teacher than their peers enrolled at schools with mostly white and affluent students.
  • The Richardson schools with the highest percentages of poor and minority students lost, on average, nearly one-third of their teachers each year for the past five years, a rate far higher than in more affluent and white schools.

According to the report, these differences in teacher certification and experience lead to gaps in average teacher salary that can amount to thousands of dollars per teacher, per year. For example:

  • Teachers working in Spring’s highest-poverty and highest-minority high schools earn, on average, more than $4,000 a year less than their colleagues who teach at the district’s schools educating the fewest poor and minority students.
  • In Arlington, average teacher salaries at the district’s highest-poverty and highest-minority middle schools are $4,750 less per year.

Clearly, however, it doesn’t have to be this way. Some districts have already managed to reverse these trends.

  • The highest-poverty and highest-minority schools in Galena Park, Leander, Mesquite, San Antonio and Ysleta actually employ fewer novice teachers than the schools educating the most affluent or white students in the district.
  • Average teacher salaries in San Antonio’s highest-minority schools are actually higher than in the schools educating the fewest minority students.
  • Teachers working in Leander’s highest-poverty schools earn salaries that on average are higher than those of their colleagues teaching at the district’s most affluent schools.

Other school districts – including Dallas and Austin – have acknowledged the problem and have begun new efforts to reward the most effective teachers and attract them to the schools and students with the greatest needs.

These findings come just as school boards throughout the state are deciding how to use new state funds from the District Awards for Teacher Excellence (DATE) program to catalyze reform around teacher compensation.

“It’s a moment of opportunity for Texas. These new funds give us the chance to make a fresh start and begin to change age-old patterns that are deeply unfair,” said Ruiz. “DATE offers us an opening to start doing what we know in our hearts to be right, fair and absolutely necessary. We can begin, right now, working toward fairness, toward the kind of school systems of which we can be proud.

“We know that this is a multi-layered problem that requires a multi-layered solution. But the DATE funds, combined with smart and committed district-level leadership, can help us begin to get our arms around this problem.”

Ruiz pointed to a new coalition of superintendents from across the state, led by Robert Duron of San Antonio and Hector Montenegro of Arlington, that will come together to develop ways to equalize student access to the teacher talent in their districts.

“The combination of new leadership and new funds means that there’s a real chance to get this right,” said Haycock. “It won’t be easy and it won’t be fast. But it’s absolutely doable and absolutely necessary for the future of the state.”

The work by The Education Trust for Their Fair Share and the accompanying Web-based data tool was generously supported by a grant from The Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation.

“Ed Trust has once again peeled back what are complicated policy layers to reveal a simple, stark truth,” said Eli Broad, founder of The Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation.  “The only way persistent achievement gaps for poor and minority students can close in Texas is if these students first have their equitable share of the best credentialed and best paid teachers.”