Schools and districts from across the country face one of their biggest challenges yet - reforming the policies that play a role in the current opportunity and achievement gap. Despite some great efforts, students from low-income households, students of color, and students from foster care or who are homeless are still less likely to graduate than their wealthier, white, classmates.
Why do low-income students get the least effective teachers?
Today, research shows that students of color and low-income students are more likely to be taught by an ineffective teacher. In fact, a recent study shows that in Tennessee, almost 24% of teachers in high-poverty and high-minority schools are rated among the least effective in the country.
Additionally, children in high-poverty secondary schools are more likely to be taught by teachers without a certification or a major in their assigned subject. These schools are also packed with new teachers who have fewer years of experience. This is especially true in Delaware, where a survey shows that poorer schools have a far higher share of newly hired teachers than in wealthier ones.
How do we close the gap?
The key to changing the current equity gap is to develop cultural competencies in teachers. Today, many schools are introducing new opportunities allowing teachers to better evaluate, explore, and expand their instructional approaches. In fact, Arlington Public School in Virginia identified a number of recommendations for its staff. They believe there should be more opportunities for skill-based training with a specific focus on communication and cultural understanding.
Additionally, at Practice Makes Perfect, we have a teaching fellowship program which exposes college students who want to become teachers to classrooms and neighborhoods they once had negative preconceptions of. By introducing them to the environment that they once saw as different or unsafe and altering their preconceptions, we’ve been able to create a pipeline of teachers in many of the low-income neighborhoods we’re serving.
It’s not just about the teachers
Students who attend schools with equity gaps also become inspired to make a difference. Our mentoring program exposes kids growing up in the neighborhoods we’re working in to the teaching profession while they’re in high school. By witnessing results first-hand, this is predisposing more of them to become teachers because they realize that providing future students with a better education can make a huge positive impact on their own communities. Moreover, this furthers our push to make this type of program a sustainable and home-grown solution in the long-term.
We know that the key to closing the equity gap isn’t just about money. It is about people. We need to get more qualified people in front of our country’s most deserving children. We must educate students today so that they can become more passionate and resilient teachers that understand the intersections between socioeconomic status, ethnicity, race, and culture. By working with a team with tried and tested programs already in place to make these changes, you can help close the teacher equity gap, thus giving your students the best chance at an education they deserve.