Equity & Diversity

Poll of Teachers Finds Two-Tiered System

By Linda Jacobson — May 19, 2004 3 min read

Teachers who serve large numbers of poor and minority students work in schools with more turnover, more unfilled teacher vacancies, lower levels of parent involvement, and fewer textbooks and other teaching materials than those who work in more affluent schools, according to a three-state survey released last week.

Brown at 50

To mark the 50th anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka overturning school segregation, the National Commission on Teaching and America’s Future, a Washington-based nonprofit organization, commissioned the poll of 3,336 teachers in California, New York state, and Wisconsin.

Conducted by the Peter Harris Research Group in New York City, the Lou Harris poll points to a two-tiered education system, with students and teachers in poor and minority schools learning and working in broken-down, factory-era buildings with roaches and other pests and inoperable restroom facilities.

Read the results of the poll, “Fifty Years After Brown v. Board of Education: A Two-Tiered Education System,” from the National Commission on Teaching and America’s Future. (Requires Adobe’s Acrobat Reader.)

“It is unacceptable to hold students accountable for meeting high standards that their schools are not equipped to help them reach,” the report concludes.

In California, for example, 4 percent of teachers in low- poverty schools said that their schools had high proportions of uncredentialed teachers, meaning at least 20 percent.

But in high-poverty schools in the state, 48 percent of the teachers surveyed said that was the case. The margin of error was plus or minus 3 percentage points.

The authors of the report conclude that the nation is relying too heavily on teacher-recruitment strategies instead of changing “the conditions that make these schools hard to staff in the first place.”

‘Unequal’ Conditions

The commission’s report also highlights a few positive findings.

In more than 90 percent of the schools represented by teachers surveyed in Wisconsin, student discipline was not viewed as a problem. And in New York state, three-fourths of the teachers surveyed said that they were satisfied with their textbooks and other instructional materials.

“But it is important to recognize that these bright spots in the surveys are heavily weighted in favor of the greater numbers of teachers who work in low-risk, more advantaged schools,” the report says.

While the report doesn’t place blame for the inequities on any one group, Kathleen Fulton, one of its authors and the director of the Reinventing Schools for the 21st Century project at the commission, said people should listen to what teachers have to say.

The authors recommend that education leaders and public officials “acknowledge unequal and inadequate school conditions,” and take action to find solutions.

“The question of what to do is easy—the question of how is hard,” said Joseph S. Villani, the deputy executive director of the Alexandria, Va.-based National School Boards Association. “Certainly, nobody plans for their schools to have vermin. We are committed to working on this. The question is, can the public and the political machine work to make schools adequate?”

Leaders should also set standards for the kinds of resources schools should provide, such as highly qualified personnel, up-to-date technology, and enough books and other materials, the report says.

The authors recommend the adoption of school funding formulas that are based on per-pupil needs instead of averages.

“School financing policies,” they say, “should be based on an analysis of what it will cost to raise the bar and close the gap in specific areas of student achievement—bringing the teaching and learning conditions in all schools up to a high standard.”

Related Tags:

A version of this article appeared in the May 19, 2004 edition of Education Week as Poll of Teachers Finds Two-Tiered System

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
Professional Development Webinar
Building Leadership Excellence Through Instructional Coaching
Join this webinar for a discussion on instructional coaching and ways you can link your implement or build on your program.
Content provided by Whetstone Education/SchoolMint
Teaching Webinar Tips for Better Hybrid Learning: Ask the Experts What Works
Register and ask your questions about hybrid learning to our expert panel.
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
Families & the Community Webinar
Family Engagement for Student Success With Dr. Karen Mapp
Register for this free webinar to learn how to empower and engage families for student success featuring Karen L. Mapp.
Content provided by Panorama Education & PowerMyLearning

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Superintendent, Mount Pleasant CSD
Thornwood, New York
Hazard, Young, Attea & Associates
Instructional Designer Level 2
United States
K12 Inc.
Director of Headstart
New Haven, CT, US
New Haven Public Schools
Director of Headstart
New Haven, CT, US
New Haven Public Schools

Read Next

Equity & Diversity Why Are Black Teachers Being Vaccinated at Lower Rates Than Their White Peers?
The discrepancies are about more than vaccine hesitancy, says one union leader.
6 min read
A nurse prepares to administer a COVID-19 vaccine in London.
A nurse prepares to administer a COVID-19 vaccine. Teachers of color in the U.S. are being vaccinated at lower rates that their peers.
Kirsty Wigglesworth/AP-File
Equity & Diversity Opinion Which of My Students Were Freezing in the Storm?
As power outages gripped the state, a Texas teacher reflected on the stark opportunity gaps some students face year-round.
Holly Chapman
3 min read
Eithan Colindres wears a winter coat inside on Feb. 15, 2021 after the apartment his family lives in lost power following an overnight snowfall in Houston. With the snow and ice clearing in Texas after the electricity was cut to millions as temperatures plunged as people struggled to stay warm in their unheated homes.
Record-breaking cold and ice brought Texas electricity grids to the breaking point. Many families, including this one in Houston, struggled to stay warm in their unheated homes.
Brett Coomer/Houston Chronicle via AP
Equity & Diversity Opinion Don't Teach Black History Without Joy
The Black experience is not one-dimensional. Why do we teach it that way?
Jania Hoover
4 min read
Joyful figures raise their hands and sparkle inside the profile of a smiling woman
Edson Ikê for Education Week
Equity & Diversity Opinion What Does Leading for Racial Justice Look Like?
On Feb. 10, A Seat at the Table focused on leading for racial justice. Our guests, Jennifer Cheatham and John Diamond, offered many impactful answers.
1 min read
Leading for Racial Justice
Shutterstock