School & District Management

Certified Urban Educators Seen Less Likely to Be Put In 9th Grade Classrooms

By Debra Viadero — April 19, 2005 2 min read

Though experts agree that 9th grade is a critical transition year in schooling, a study unveiled here last week suggests that freshman students in urban high schools may be less likely than their older peers to get certified, experienced teachers to guide them through that rocky period.

Presented at the annual meeting of the American Educational Research Association, the study is based on data from 35 high schools in an urban district that the researchers do not name. But the authors of the report say they believe their findings may hold true for big-city districts throughout the United States—and, to a lesser extent, for suburban schools, too.

Several studies in recent years have shown that inner-city schools serving predominantly poor students tend to get more than their fair share of neophyte teachers and to have more teachers assigned to subjects for which they were never certified. Fewer studies have taken a look at how those less qualified teachers may be distributed within those struggling urban schools.

“It would seem logical for schools to place their strongest and most experienced teachers in the 9th grade,” said Ruth Curran Neild, the lead author of the report. In the 200,000-student district she and her co-author studied, though, students in 9th grade had the lowest odds of students in any high school grade of being taught by a certified teacher.

Focusing on the 1999-2000 school year, the study found that the overall percentages of new or uncertified teachers ranged from 8 percent to 60 percent in the 35 high schools the researchers tracked. Magnet and vocational schools had the fewest uncertified teachers. And, in keeping with other studies, the researchers found that black, Hispanic, and low-achieving students tended to get disproportionately high shares of new and uncertified teachers.

Reasons for Placements

In 25 of the high schools, freshmen were more likely than seniors to have new or uncertified teachers instructing them. In 10 of those 25 schools, the proportion of novice teachers or those lacking certification was twice as high for 9th graders as it was for 12th graders.

Ms. Neild, an associate professor of education at the University of Pennsylvania’s graduate school of education, said that in one of the schools that participated in the study, she saw 9th grade Algebra 1 classes being taught by uncertified teachers who had studied political science, not math, in college.

Yet, she added, principals often have valid reasons for assigning teachers who may be arguably the least qualified to their most needy students. Upper-grades classrooms, with more stable student populations, are often considered plum assignments, and principals may use those teaching posts to reward senior teachers because they have no other incentives to offer.

Also, she said, districts often send newly minted teachers to schools a day or two before school starts, which leaves principals little time to become familiar with their qualifications.

“If I were a principal, I would put them in Algebra 1, rather than calculus,” Ms. Neild said.

While it’s hard to say exactly what kind of impact new or uncertified teachers have on 9th graders’ academic achievement, the study did point to one possible indicator of a negative effect.

All other things being equal, it found, students taught by those less “qualified” urban teachers tended to miss more days of school—about three-quarters of a day more for every 10-percentage-point increase in the percentage of uncertified or new teachers who taught them.

Events

This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Student Well-Being Webinar
Equity, Care and Connection: New SEL Tools and Practices to Support Students and Adults
As school districts plan to welcome students back into buildings for the upcoming school year, this is the perfect time to take a hard look at both our practices and our systems to build a
Content provided by Panorama Education
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Classroom Technology Webinar
Here to Stay – Pandemic Lessons for EdTech in Future Development
What technology is needed in a post pandemic district? Learn how changes in education will impact development of new technologies.
Content provided by AWS
School & District Management Live Online Discussion A Seat at the Table: Strategies & Tips for Complex Decision-Making
Schools are working through the most disruptive period in the history of modern education, facing a pandemic, economic problems, social justice issues, and rapid technological change all at once. But even after the pandemic ends,

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

School & District Management Cash for Shots? Districts Take New Tacks to Boost Teacher Vaccinations
In order to get more school staff vaccinated, some district leaders are tempting them with raffles, jeans passes, and cash.
8 min read
Illustration of syringe tied to stick
Getty
School & District Management National Teachers' Union President: Schools Must Reopen 5 Days a Week This Fall
American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten wants five days a week of in-person school next fall.
4 min read
Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, talks during a news conference in front of the Richard R. Green High School of Teaching on Sept. 8, 2020.
Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, talks during a news conference in front of the Richard R. Green High School of Teaching on Sept. 8, 2020.
Mark Lennihan/AP
School & District Management Principals and Stress: Strategies for Coping in Difficult Times
Running schools in the pandemic has strained leaders in unprecedented ways. Principals share their ideas for how to manage the stress.
6 min read
Illustration of calm woman working at desk
Getty
School & District Management Wanted: Superintendents to Lead Districts Through the End of a Pandemic
Former superintendents say there are signs when it's time to move on. Their replacements are more likely to be greenhorns, experts say.
4 min read
Los Angeles Unified School District Superintendent Austin Beutner speaks at a news conference at the school district headquarters in Los Angeles on March 13, 2020. Beutner will step down as superintendent after his contract ends in June, he announced Wednesday, April 21, 2021.
Austin Beutner, the superintendent of Los Angeles Unified, will step down after his contract ends in June.
Damian Dovarganes/AP