A new report showing that many school districts in California spend less money on teachers in high-poverty schools highlights the Los Angeles Unified district as a prominent exception to the trend.
The study, prepared by Education Trust-West, found that spending for teachers in Los Angeles was actually highest in schools serving the most children living in poverty.
In a short “message” included in the report, Los Angeles Unified’s superintendent Roy Romer says the finding is no mere coincidence. The district has implemented a detailed “action plan” to recruit more experienced—and thus more highly paid—teachers into low-income schools. It made strong gains in that effort a couple of years ago, Romer suggests, when other districts in the state were laying off teachers.
In addition, the district has established an intensive professional-development program for new teachers working in high-poverty schools. Such teachers “receive additional professional development designed to meet their unique needs, beyond the initial two years,” Romer writes. High-poverty schools in Los Angeles are also provided “coaches” to support new teachers.
Those professional-development offerings may ultimately have helped tilt the salary scales in favor of teachers in poor schools. “In some instances, the additional salary point or university-credit professional development for new teachers enabled them to move up the salary scale into higher-paying steps,” Romer explains.
Los Angeles’ teacher-recruitment efforts have attracted attention in other quarters recently as well. In January, the magazine Workforce Management named the district as one of ten winners of its 2005 Optima Awards, which recognize businesses and organizations for improving the way they recruit and train employees.
Among the positive changes cited by the magazine, the district implemented an online application system allowing for quicker response time and began hiring year-round, offering early contracts to promising prospects. Inspired by systematic crime-reduction efforts used in New York City, meanwhile, the district began tracking the success rates of its recruiters.
In two years, the proportion of Los Angeles teachers considered “highly qualified” under federal guidelines has gone from 81 percent to 98 percent.