GOOD TEACHERS matter a lot.
One good teacher can change a child's life. In fact, teachers matter more to student success than anything else that schools do. What we know by experience and common sense, the research confirms: Having a high-quality teacher throughout elementary school can offset, or even eliminate, the disadvantage of a low socioeconomic background.
In other words, the influence of a good teacher goes far in closing the achievement gap. The larger issue, however, is that most children from high-poverty neighborhoods who attend low-performing schools seldom get their fair share of good teachers.
When a school system cannot provide children who are most in need with the strongest teachers, then something is wrong. The "teacher placement system," "teacher distribution model" or whatever we call it is simply broken and blinded. This is true in Philadelphia, in Washington, in New York, and many other urban school districts across the country.
Regardless of how we measure teacher quality, poor minority children tend to get MORE than their fair share of teachers with less experience, less preparation less skill and too many "out-of-field" certifications.
THE "GREAT Staff" priority addressed in our Imagine 2014 plan for the schools makes this much clear: We will not ignore the imbalance any longer. This inequity only reinforces the achievement and opportunity gaps that we are determined to close.
As the school administration works to overhaul hiring practices and timelines, recruitment and retention strategies, along with planning for talent development, we are also talking with the union about innovative ways that will help us improve teaching and learning for all Philadelphia school children.
As PFT President Jerry Jordan recently said, "Raising student achievement is a shared responsibility." I agree. Together, we are responsible for student success, and, together, we will find ways to make that happen. *
Arlene C. Ackerman is superintendent of the School District of Philadelphia.