Research Teaching & Learning

Inequitable Opportunity to Learn: Student Access to Certified and Experienced Teachers

New report examines access to high-quality teachers for students of color

Decades of research show that access to fully certified and experienced teachers matters for student outcomes and achievement. Yet providing all students with equitable access to such teachers has long been a struggle in U.S. schools. Recent teacher shortages have exacerbated these inequities in access, which disproportionately fall on students of color. This is especially concerning since achievement gaps between students of color and white students are substantially explained by inequitable access to qualified teachers.

A new report from the Learning Policy Institute (LPI), “Inequitable Opportunity to Learn: Student Access to Certified and Experienced Teachers,” draws from the most recent state and national data from the U.S. Department of Education’s biannual Civil Rights Data Collection (CRDC) to shed light on the extent of inequities in student access to certified and experienced teachers. The report also examines how these data can inform effective state and federal policy.

Even as this report is being released, the U.S. Department of Education is proposing the elimination from the CRDC of key questions related to, among other topics, educator experience. In a letter to the department, LPI explains why these data — which have been collected every two years from all public schools and school districts in the United States since 1968 — are essential for fostering equity and access in education.

The report finds that students in schools with high enrollment of students of color have less access to certified and experienced teachers than their white peers:

  • Schools with high enrollments of students of color were four times as likely to employ uncertified teachers as were schools with low enrollment of students of color.
  • Students in schools with high enrollments of students of color have less access to experienced teachers. In these schools, nearly one in every six teachers is just beginning his or her career, compared to one in every 10 teachers in schools with low enrollment of students of color.
  • In 13 states (Alaska, Connecticut, Delaware, Kansas, Massachusetts, Mississippi, Nevada, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, and Washington), there are about twice as many inexperienced teachers in schools with high enrollment of students of color compared to the share of inexperienced teachers in schools with low enrollment of students of color.
  • In five states (Georgia, Indiana, Maryland, Rhode Island, and Tennessee), there are at least three times as many inexperienced teachers in schools with high enrollment of students of color compared to the share of inexperienced teachers in schools with low student of color enrollment.

The report’s policy recommendations include:

  • Enforcing federal comparability requirements that encourage the equitable distribution of more experienced, certified teachers and discourage the concentration of novice and uncertified teachers in high-need schools.
  • Strengthening educator pipelines by implementing and maintaining federal and state loan forgiveness and service scholarship programs that can recruit, prepare, and retain high-quality teachers in the academic fields and in the schools in which they are most needed.
  • Creating more equitable state funding systems to provide for higher and more equitable teacher salaries and improved working conditions in underserved districts, both of which can increase teacher retention.
  • Supporting high-quality teacher residency programs through increases in state and federal funding.
  • Providing novice teachers with mentoring, support, and other professional learning opportunities.
  • Compensating National Board Certified teachers who work in high-need schools and who can serve as expert mentors for novices in those schools.
  • Supporting principal training at the state and local levels, since principals have a strong influence on teacher retention.

Learn more about “Inequitable Opportunity to Learn: Student Access to Certified and Experienced Teachers” by Jessica Cardichon, Linda Darling-Hammond, Man Yang, Caitlin Scott, and Dion Burns.

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