Study: Minority Students Often Struggle Under Worst Teachers

A new study by Education Trust-West, an education reform advocacy organization, has found that poor, minority children are consistently stuck with the worst-performing teachers.

This comes after a study that shows good teachers from minority backgrounds are beneficial in accelerating academic achievement by Hispanic and black students to levels on par with their white and Asian counterparts.

“We know that great teachers have the power to help students catch up when they’re behind,” said Arun Ramanathan, executive director of The Education Trust-West, who carried out the 18-month-long study, writes Christina Hoag at the Associated Press.

“But you can’t catch up when you don’t have access to the best teachers.”

In the study, 1 million Los Angeles students and 17,000 teachers were analyzed over three years, adding weight to the argument for better evaluation methods of teachers that take into account student achievement.

The study analyzed teachers and student scores from standardized state tests. Researchers found where more effective teachers were located, how many were laid off in 2009, and how students fared under good teachers. This resulted in coming up with rankings for the teachers based on their effectiveness.

And the study found a concentration of more effective teachers in affluent schools and that highly effective teachers who were located in low-performing schools were more likely to leave.

The study found that students who started off behind their class reached levels of academic proficiency after having three consecutive years of top teachers reached levels of academic proficiency. However, the opposite was true if a student drew a weak teacher:

But it also showed that students who had the worst ranked teachers were stuck below grade level.

The study found that seniority-based layoffs – which left more ineffective senior teachers in low performing schools – meant more jobs lost overall.

Since senior teachers are highly paid, more lower-paid teachers had to be cut, notes Hoag.

The study recommends better professional development for teachers and evaluation methods and incentives that help retain top teachers in high-poverty schools.

The study also proposes a reform to state laws that mandate seniority-based layoffs and increased oversight to ensure that top teachers are spread equitably among schools.

Yolie Flores, chief executive of Communities for Teaching Excellence, a school reform organization in Los Angeles, said:

“I found these findings extremely chilling.”