Teacher prep. and experience benefits underserved kids

Teacher prep. and experience benefits underserved kids

(Calif.) A new study adds to the growing evidence that children of color and low-income youth performed better when taught by fully credentialed teachers.

Researchers at the Learning Policy Institute found that in California school districts that employ a high percentage of experienced teachers, African American and Latino students are performing above predicted levels–even when taking into account socio-economic status.

Among other similarities, the districts that boasted higher student achievement among typically underserved students had strategies in place for hiring and retaining a strong, stable educator workforce, as well as collaborative professional development opportunities.

“The research finds that providing students with qualified, fully-prepared teachers is a critical component for raising student achievement,” Anne Podolsky, LPI researcher and lead author on the report, said in a statement. “Fully prepared teachers are also 2 to 3 times less likely to leave the profession early. Thus, solving shortages depends on making preparation more affordable and incentivizing teachers to enter the fields and communities where they are most needed.”

Podolsky said among the strategies that can improve educator recruitment and retention are teacher residency programs, pathways for classified staff to earn credentials, and teacher preparation loan forgiveness plans.

Since the recession, districts throughout the country and the state have reported struggling to find enough fully credentialed teachers–especially in subjects such as special education, as potential teaching candidates went into higher-paying career fields. Many policymakers have responded by increasing funding for teacher recruitment and retainment efforts, adopting or expanding teacher housing options, streamlining credentialing pathways and boosting overall teacher pay.

To help fill the need, states began issuing substandard credentials, permits and waivers that allow educators to head up a classroom before earning a full teaching credential. In California, more than 12,000 substandard permits and credentials were issued in 2017-18, representing half of the teachers entering workforce in that year, according to the Teacher Credentialing Commission.

The new report finds that the proportion of teachers holding substandard credentials is significantly and negatively associated with student achievement for all students, and authors of the report note that underprepared teachers are disproportionately assigned to schools that serve the largest shares of students of color and students from low-income families throughout the state.

Teachers’ average experience in the district was also found to be positively associated with academic achievement for African American and Latino students.

Researchers analyzed student scores on the California Assessment of Student Performance and Progress assessments in English language arts and math from 2015 to 2017, focusing on the 435 school districts throughout the state with at least 200 African American or Hispanic students and 200 white students.

Close to 170 of those districts saw both Hispanic and white students achieve at higher than predicted levels relative to their socioeconomic status, while African American and white students in nearly 50 districts achieved at higher than predicted levels.

The study identified a handful of common elements present among the districts in addition to teacher preparedness and experience, including:

  • Systemic supports for students’ academic and social and emotional needs;
  • Strong family and community engagement;
  • Engaged leaders who support continuous improvement; and
  • Curriculum, instruction, and assessment focused on deeper learning for students and adults, among other things.

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