Saturday, March 22, 2008

staffing high needs schools

My focus question here, arising out of earlier discussions about Teach for America and the proposed Teach for Australia is:
What is the best way or a good way to go about staffing high-needs (or disadvantaged or urban rustbelt or remote indigenous) schools?

Recruiting and Retaining Quality Teachers for High-Needs Schools by Barnett Berry (bio) et al (pdf 23pp)

from Barnett Berry bio:
Dr. Barnett Berry's career, which began as an under-prepared, inner- city high school teacher in 1978, has focused on a wide range efforts to close America’s student achievement gap by closing the teaching quality gap.
As part of an earlier discussion on this blog about Teach for America (It sounds like a miracle), Sylvia Martinez recommended I read a shorter article by Barnett Berry. I didn't think much of that one but this longer pdf did impress me. One issue here is that it's difficult to discuss a complex issue effectively in the standard web2.0 article length. Web2.0 has produced a glut of writers many of whom don't read in depth.

first para:
The facts are daunting: Poor children and those of color are far less likely to be taught by qualified teachers—no matter how the term “qualified teacher” is defined. Studies consistently show that teachers who are better trained, more experienced, and licensed in the subjects they teach are more likely to be teaching in more affluent schools, serving more academically advantaged students.
YES, the education system is a well constructed shipwreck, designed to select the best swimmers - always has been and those who try to change this are brave

myth -> financial incentives are the silver bullet

YES, financial incentives are not a silver bullet but they are an important part of the mix, if we are serious about quality education for the disadvantaged (BB is saying this too)

Why teachers leave high needs schools:
one study:
  • poor support from school administration
  • lack of student motivation
  • little teacher influence over decision making
  • student discipline problems
another study:
  • inadequate system - poor professional development, too little time to plan lessons
  • bureaucratic impediments - paperwork, interruptions, teaching restrictions
  • lack of collegial support

Why teachers stay at high needs schools:
one study:
  • supportive school leadership (39%)
  • salary and benefits (22%)
beliefs that might cause them to doubt success (and might leave to leaving):
  • "overall working conditions would not allow them to be successful"
  • "feel they are not sufficiently prepared"
another study:
  • strong principal leadership
  • collegial staff with shared teaching philosophy
  • adequate resources
  • supportive / active parent community
Recommendations from highly accomplished teachers

1) Transform teaching and learning conditions in high needs schools
  • Class size is an important issue in high needs schools
  • high stakes testing and No Child Left Behind (NCLB) does not encourage effective teaching
  • there is inadequate preparation time [cf. Japan, China, Singapore]
  • universal access to pre-school is important
2) Prepare and support teachers for specific challenges posed by working in high needs schools
  • many teachers don't want to work in schools where it is very difficult or impossible to be successful
  • utilise training which is job embedded, which focuses on student work and is led by peers in collaboration with peers
  • just in time mentoring can be problematic - there is a lack of time to discuss pedagogy in depth and mentors must be of high quality to be effective (more funding for quality mentors can help here)
3) Recruit and develop administrators who can draw on the expertise of specially-prepared teacher leaders
  • many administrators do not know how to support teachers, many use rigid, formulaic approaches
  • "it takes a village to raise a teacher"
  • convert some assistant Principal positions to teacher coach leadership positions
4) Create a menu of recruitment incentives, but focus on growing teaching expertise within high-needs schools.
Supportive Principals, freedom to use professional judgment and working with like minded and similarly skilled colleagues means more than extra pay

The last thing policymakers should do is develop a single incentive to attract accomplished teachers to high needs schools. Hence the word menu, above

Different teachers have different needs depending on their life circumstances, their geographic location and their age

5) Build awareness among policymakers, practitioners, and the public about the importance of National Board Certification for high-needs schools.

" ... salary incentives alone will not suffice to attract and retain good teachers for high-needs schools. Working conditions matter—and most notably, access to good principals and skilled colleagues, lower class sizes and smaller student loads, high quality professional development, and classroom resources needed to help students meet high academic standards are critically important"
This analysis does impact back onto the Teach for Australia proposal

I've added a new tag - disadvantage - to this and some older posts, to help keep track and connect the dots

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