Tuesday, December 2, 2008

My final shot at Ripley (Time Magazine)

The "qualified teachers" gap

Amanda Ripley's Time Magazine piece claims that the biggest problem with U.S. public schools is "ineffective teaching, according to decades of research." As I pointed out previously, this is crap research which is used by the "no excuses" crowd to privatize inner-city schools, blame and fire teachers for low student test scores. This, as opposed focusing on the institutional practices that impair teacher training and preparation and create huge inequities in the system.

What current research does show (Ripley never mentions this) is a two-tiered system of public education with the upper tier getting the bulk of the educational resources, including more highly qualified and experienced teachers.

One of the many broken promises embedded in the 2002 NCLB law, was that all schools would have “highly qualified” teachers. But accountability hard-liners have focused only on punishing schools based on test scores while at the same time, promoting the notion that exclusively young and uncertified teachers were fine for inner-city schools and privately-run charters. Privatizers and union-busting superintendents like D.C.’s Michelle Rhee and New Orleans’ Paul Vallas have used this rationale to cut budgets and to fire hundreds of experienced teachers.

Now the chickens are coming home to roost. The latest DOE studies show that in high-poverty districts qualified math teachers are hard to find.

Among the findings:

-In high-poverty schools, two in five math classes have teachers without a college major or certification in math.

-In schools with a greater share of African-American and Latino children, nearly one in three math classes is taught by such a teacher.

Math is important because it is considered a "gateway" course, one that leads to greater success in college and the workplace. Kids who finish Algebra II in high school are more likely to get bachelor's degrees. And people with bachelor's degrees earn substantially more than those with high school diplomas.

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