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Schools with mainly black and Latino students have less-qualified teachers, report says

As New York City officials weigh options to boost school diversity, a new report shows that elementary schools that serve mostly and black and Latino students have less-qualified teachers than city schools that primarily serve white students.

Teachers are less likely to hold a master’s degree, have certifications in core subject areas, and stay long-term at schools where most students are black and Hispanic, according to the report, released Thursday by the advocacy group New York Appleseed. For instance, 42 percent of teachers in those schools have a master’s degree and some additional training, compared to 57 percent in schools where most students are white.

“The resource disparities are always going to run in one direction,” said David Tipson, New York Appleseed’s executive director. “In other words, these disparities are running against students of color.”

Tipson’s team found two exceptions to this rule. Schools where black and Hispanic students — who make up 70 percent of New York City’s public-school students — were the majority tended to have smaller class sizes and smaller student-to-teacher ratios.

The findings about disparities in teacher quality are in line with other recent studies focused on teacher-evaluation data, which that have found that high-rated New York City teachers are less likely to serve black and Hispanic students. The State Education Department made that point in a 2015 analysis of evaluations from the 2012-13 school year.

Another 2015 report prepared by the state for federal education officials found that poor and nonwhite students across New York state were more likely to be taught by educators with no experience or who have little expertise in the subjects they are assigned to teach.

That report urged districts to help schools with their neediest students recruit top teachers.
New York City has made some moves to do so, including offering higher-paid teacher leadership positions through its new teachers contract.

The city has also encouraged principals of low-performing schools in its “Renewal” program to counsel low-performing teachers out of the system where possible, and in a few cases worked with the teachers union to re-interview and selectively re-hire staffers. Still, a Chalkbeat analysis found that students who attend one of those schools were twice as likely to have a low-rated teacher as their peers in an another city school.

The city also provides Teachers of Tomorrow grants, which give bonuses to new hires that earn a rating on their teacher evaluation of effective or above.

“Recruiting, training and retaining high-quality teachers for all our neighborhoods is a top priority for the Department of Education,” said education department spokeswoman Devora Kaye.