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Less Qualified Teachers Hinder Schools with Black and Latino Kids: Report

By Amy Zimmer | February 25, 2016 6:41pm
 Students at P.S. 295, an arts-focused school in the South Slope.
Students at P.S. 295, an arts-focused school in the South Slope.
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DNAinfo/Leslie Albrecht

MANHATTAN — Schools where a majority of the students are black or Latino have less experienced and less qualified teachers than schools that are predominantly white, according to a report released Thursday by advocacy group Appleseed.

At schools with mainly black and Latino students nearly 42 percent of teachers, on average, are considered qualified — meaning they have Master’s degrees and additional training. That compares to schools with a white majority where nearly 57 percent of teachers are considered qualified, according to the report, which looked at data from 2009-2012 for roughly 540 schools.

A lack of qualified teachers especially hurts low-income students and students of color since many of these students enter the classroom with educational disadvantages, the report noted.

So, instead of pairing the most skilled teachers to help these children catch up, educators with the least experience and skill are in the neediest classrooms.

“This new report demonstrates once again that separate can never be equal,” said David Tipson, executive director of New York Appleseed, who called on the Department of Education to prioritize school diversity as a way to address the resource gap at schools.

And New York City schools are among the most segregated in the nation.

At more than half of the city's 1,600 public schools black and Latino students made up 90 percent or more of the student population, a 2014 DNAinfo analysis showed. Meanwhile, half of the city's white students were concentrated in just 7 percent of the schools.

The Appleseed report also found that students of color and low-income students were more likely to attend schools where teachers were not certified or failed to qualify for their advanced-level certification following the 5-year expiration of their entry-level certification. Schools that had a high concentration of black and Latino students also tended to have higher turnover rates.

When schools lose teachers, the report noted, it can not only hurt student achievement but also “stall the development of cadres of potentially effective teachers” at the very schools that need it most.

“Recruiting, training and retaining high-quality teachers for all our neighborhoods is a top priority for the Department of Education,” said DOE spokeswoman Devora Kaye, “and we provide a range of recruitment tools focused on cultivating interest in opportunities that are in harder to staff schools."

The department has programs targeting hiring for high needs schools, like Teachers of Tomorrow, which offers grants of $3,400 a year for new hires in 350 struggling schools, and NYC Teaching Fellows, which provides a non-traditional route for graduates or professionals looking to teach in high need areas.

The Appleseed report called for more incentives to attract proven school leaders and effective teachers at hard-to-staff schools. It also stressed the importance of improving working conditions and school environments, noting that, again, schools in wealthier, often non-minority areas have a big advantage when their PTAs can fundraise for big bucks, like the Upper West Side’s P.S. 87, which raised $1.57 million in the 2009 school year, funding a range of things from Mac computers and a 3-D digital projector to a fitness coach for recess and an assistant chef. 

But by working to improve teaching and instruction at schools with higher percentages of black, Latino and low-income students, the report noted, "the DOE could take a big step in addressing disparities in access to educational resources."