Black Students Less Likely to Be Taught By Certified Teachers, Ed. Dept. Data Show

By Stephen Sawchuk — March 21, 2014 2 min read
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Students of color are more likely to be taught by underqualified teachers, novice teachers, or teachers with lower salaries than their peers, according to national data from the 2011-12 school year released today by the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights. The data confirms a host of other research.

The Civil Rights Data Collection takes place biennially, and is gathered primarily so that the department has the information it needs to enforce civil rights laws that provide for equal educational opportunities for students of different races, genders, disabilities, and English-speaking skills. Teacher equity is actually a fairly new addition to the collection. It was first collected in 2009-10, but only for a sample of schools and districts. So the data released today represent the first comprehensive figures based on reporting from every single district.

Black students appeared to be the hardest hit by such inequities. In one startling finding, nearly 7 percent of black students attended schools where more than 20 percent of teachers hadn’t yet met all state certification requirements. That figure was more than four times higher than for white students (1.5 percent) and more than twice as high than for Latino students (3 percent). Much other research shows that poor and minority teachers tend to have out-of-field or otherwise unqualified teachers.

Researchers have also shown over and over that novice teachers, particularly those in their first year, are less effective on average than experienced teachers. Yet Black, Latino, American Indian, and Native Alaskans were more likely to be in schools with a concentration of novices than their white peers, according to the OCR data.

And at the high school level, nearly a quarter of districts with at least two high schools had a $5,000 gap in teacher salaries between schools with the highest and lowest concentration of black and Latino students. (About half of districts had a gap of $500 or less, and across the country the average gap is $1,913. Compare these results to the 2009-10 sample, which found a slightly larger average gap amount.)

Advocacy groups have long fretted that federal Title I dollars earmarked for additional services for disadvantaged students in actuality merely serve to fill in these salary gaps, but lawmakers have not managed to addressed the matter.

Across the sample, meanwhile, the data also showed that 28 percent of teachers are absent for more than 10 days; research indicates such absences can depress student achievement. The 28 percent figure is, however, far lower than a 37 percent estimate based on the 2009-10 collection.

This year’s data release is the first since 2000 reflecting information from all schools and districts, including charter schools and juvenile justice facilities.

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A version of this news article first appeared in the Teacher Beat blog.