To the Editor:
In response to the Teacher Beat blog post “Study: Student-Teaching Placement Could Be Teacher-Equity Lever,” and with an eye toward the Department of Education’s plan to improve teacher equity, it’s important to reiterate just how critical it is to prepare teacher candidates for success in urban environments.
Student teaching provides crucial classroom experience. But where candidates complete this experience is an indicator of where they will end up teaching for their career, as suggested in the study mentioned in the blog post. To improve equity more broadly, we need to train and retain quality teachers to work in underserved schools.
According to data from Education Trust, low-income students and students of color are more likely to be taught by lower quality teachers. In Tennessee, for example, teachers rated “least effective" made up nearly 20 percent of those in high-poverty schools, as opposed to 13 percent in low-poverty schools.
Though factors such as salary can attract better teachers to work in urban schools, more importantly it is extensive clinical preparation that will retain them. Programs, whether traditional or alternative, must prepare high-performing teachers to be successful in low-income schools and districts. Without this training, few candidates, regardless of where they student-teach, will be able to tackle the realities of teaching students in these environments and will not remain in these classrooms for the long haul. We can’t expect urban teachers to be excellent if we haven’t trained them to navigate urban school environments, have difficult conversations, and teach diverse classrooms with students of different races, socio-economic backgrounds, and learning levels.
Imagine being responsible to promote the academic and emotional growth of a class of 6th graders, reading anywhere from a 3rd to a 12th grade level, and with some having exceptional learning needs. Teaching is hard, and even harder without the preparation required to teach all students effectively.
If we really want great teachers to remain in low-income schools, we must set them up for success. We must place them in these environments when they are learning to teach and equip them with the skills needed to teach diverse classrooms. All students need consistently high-quality teachers every year, and it’s our responsibility to provide them.
Chief Executive Officer
Urban Teacher Center
A version of this article appeared in the July 08, 2015 edition of Education Week as Urban Classroom Experience Key to Student-Teacher Retention