Undernews is the online report of the Progressive Review, edited by Sam Smith, who has covered Washington during all or part of one quarter of America's presidencies and edited alternative journals since 1964. The Review has been on the web since 1995. See main page for full contents

April 27, 2009


Daniel de Vise and Michael Alison Chandler, Washington Post - Students in the region's poorest neighborhoods are nearly twice as likely to have a new or second-year teacher as those in the wealthiest, a Washington Post analysis has found. The pattern means some of the neediest students attend schools that double as teacher training grounds.

The analysis found 93 schools in the past academic year at which at least a third of the faculty were beginners, with less than two years in the profession. They were chiefly in the District and in Prince George's and Anne Arundel counties.

Experts say an effective teacher is key to raising academic achievement. Yet some disadvantaged students can spend years in classrooms led by untested recruits.

A teacher need not be experienced to be effective, and there are plenty of ineffective veterans. Maverick programs including Teach for America, which steer graduates from elite colleges into urban classrooms, have glamorized the first-year teacher by showing that youthful enthusiasm and smarts occasionally trump experience.

But studies show that inexperienced teachers tend to be less effective, especially in their first two years. That is when they learn to tame an unruly bunch into a class, prepare six hours of daily lessons and grade 25 homework assignments without working through dinner.

The concentration of new teachers in low-income communities is "remarkably consistent" across the nation, said James Wyckoff, a University of Virginia economist. Many teachers leave jobs in low-income communities after a year or two. Their flight leaves openings in struggling schools, which are filled by more new teachers. Federal law has tried to slow the cycle, with uneven results.

"We can't afford to take risks with our most vulnerable kids, yet that's exactly what we do," said Kati Haycock, president of the Education Trust, an advocate for disadvantaged students.


Anonymous robbie said...

also, keeping teachers away from tenure or benefits saves money, which most inner-city schools probably don't allow too much heating in the winter or air-conditioning when it's hot because they can save up for things like...I dunno...dilapidated books and discarded pencils

April 27, 2009 8:16 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I once made a comment in high school that left teachers and administrators questioning my sanity. I suggested that the system of putting the very best teachers into the accelerated classes was wrong. I thought those teachers should be teaching the students who need help the most, while those of us who were naturally intelligent and fast learners were capable of learning from ordinary teachers. Still makes sense to me, but it will probably never be implemented.

April 28, 2009 11:58 AM  

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