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"Have Minority Students Had a Fair Share of Quality Teachers? Results from a National Longitudinal Study (1987-88 to 1999-2000),"

by Jianping Shen Teacher quality is one of the most important factors influencing students’ learning. Using the nationally representative data collected during Schools and Staffing Surveys (SASS) over a 12-year period, and with funding from PRRAC, we inquired into the relationship between: (a) the level of minority enrollment in a school, and (b) the qualifications of teachers in the school. We were interested in knowing whether schools with a high level of minority enrollment were disadvantaged in terms of having quality teachers.July/August 2003 issue of Poverty & Race

Teacher quality is one of the most important factors influencing students’ learning. Using the nationally representative data collected during Schools and Staffing Surveys (SASS) over a 12-year period, and with funding from PRRAC, we inquired into the relationship between: (a) the level of minority enrollment in a school, and (b) the qualifications of teachers in the school. We were interested in knowing whether schools with a high level of minority enrollment were disadvantaged in terms of having quality teachers.


Research Methodology

SASS, designed by the National Center for Education Statistics and implemented by the Bureau of Census, is the largest sample survey of school systems in the US. The actual sample size and the weighted sample size are displayed in Table 1. For each of the surveys, more than 40,000 public school teachers took part in the study and the weighted sample was more than 2 million. (The weighted sample size is the actual population size.)

We operationalized teacher quality from multiple perspectives: (a) whether the teacher had a certificate in his/her primary teaching assignment; (b) the type of certification the teacher had in the primary teaching assignment; (c) teaching experience; and (d) the teacher’s retention and attrition status. We analyzed data from both cross-sectional and longitudinal perspectives.


Major Findings

The data clearly indicate that, in comparison to other schools, schools with the highest level of minority enrollment, i.e., those with 50% or greater minority enrollment, were and continued to be disadvantaged in terms of having a proportionate share of quality teachers.
Cross-sectionally, when we analyzed the most recent data collected (1999-2000), we found that schools with 50% or greater minority enrollment had: (a) the highest rate of teachers who were not certified in their primary teaching fields; (b) the highest rate of teachers who had low level of certification (i.e., temporary and emergency); (c) the highest percentage of new teachers; and (d) the highest rate of teacher attrition. Table 2 summarizes the statistics.

Longitudinally, when we analyzed data collected in 1987-89, 1993-95 and 1999-2000, schools where 50% or more of the enrollment were minority had the lowest teacher quality, as variously operationalized in this report. For example, among all teachers, the percentage of teachers who were uncertified in their primary teaching assignment increased from 2.7% in 1987-88, to 3.5% in 1993-94, to 5.6% in 1999-2000; the situation was much worse in schools where 50% or more of the enrollment were minority: The percentages increased from 5.0% in 1987-88, to 5.9% in 1993-94, to 8.3% in 1999-2000. The pattern was the same for teacher attrition. Among all teachers, attrition rates were 13.1% in 1987-89, 13.8% in 1993-95, 15.0% in 1999-2001. The situation was even worse in schools where 50% or more of the enrollment were minority. The corresponding percentages increased from 15.0% in 1987-88, to 16.5% in 1993-94, to 17.5% in 1999-2000.

Furthermore, the inequity among schools with various levels of minority enrollment had become worse with regard to some measures. For example, among all teachers, the percentage of teachers who had temporary, provisional, emergency, and waiver certificates in their primary teaching field remained at 5.2% in 1987-88 and in 1999-2000. However, the corresponding statistics for those in schools where 50% or more of the students were minority increased from 5.8% in 1987-88 to 7.1% in 1999-2000. The percentage of new teachers increased more in schools where 50% or more of the students were minority. Among all teachers, the percentage of new teachers increased from 11.5% in 1987-88, to 15.9% in 1999-2000, a 38.3% percentage-point increase. Among those who worked in schools where 50% or more of the students were minority, the percentage of new teachers increased from 12.8% in 1987-88 to 19.4% in 1999-2000, a 51.6% percentage-point increase.

In summary, the data clearly indicated that equity continues to be a challenge facing both the education community and the society at large. Many minority students have already been disadvantaged due to family circumstances. Characteristics related to the teaching force in the school continue to put these children in a more disadvantaged position. We have a challenge ahead of us.


The Advocacy Plan

The advocacy plan will be implemented with The Education Trust, which works for the high academic achievement of all students at all levels—kindergarten through college—with particular focus on schools that serve low-income youth and students of color. Improving teacher quality, and equalizing the distribution of qualified teachers, is a central part of its efforts. The Education Trust will disseminate findings with a clear voice and concrete recommendations to audiences both inside and outside of the education system. It works with educators, policymakers, journalists, parents, and the public to generate an awareness of and appetite for the kinds of changes/policies that will transform schools and colleges into stronger and more equitable institutions. With an eye towards the twin goals of equity and excellence, The Education Trust calls upon states and districts to ante up in their investments, and apply research and data to implement solutions. 

The findings will also be useful for The Education Trust to strategize policies that will help states meet the new federal mandate of a “qualified teacher in every classroom” within four years. Teacher quality and distribution is also an important indicator on its interactive state and national data site, which earned The Education Trust honors from the National Journal, as having the best education web site.

In addition to its web site, which presents the data in both accessible and provocative ways, The Education Trust utilizes research findings on the distribution and impact of teachers in its data shows, publications, public information campaign, and press and legislative work, to persuade and provoke all constituent groups to leverage for change in the area of teacher quality and its distribution. The Education Trust’s work at the federal level helped shape provisions in the reauthorization of both the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) and the Higher Education Act (HEA), which will hold states and districts accountable for the preparation and hiring of quality teachers.

Jianping Shen is Professor of Education Leadership at Western Michigan University and a former elementary school teacher in China. His address is: College of Education, Western Michigan University, Kalamazoo, MI 49008. An electronic copy of the full report is available from Dr. Shen. For further information on the followup advocacy work contact Kevin Carey at The Education Trust, Kcarey@edtrust.org, 202/293-1217, x321, http://www.edtrust.org. shen@wmich.edu
 
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