From Texas, thoughts to chew on
There's no doubt many poor and minority kids are academically lagging when they enter the school system. But are schools compounding the problem by saddling them with less-experienced and less-effective teachers? Some education experts say it's sad but true. The latest evidence: A new study from The Education Trust that looked at teacher salaries in Texas and found big pay gaps, within the same district, between teachers in high-minority, high-poverty schools and their counterparts in white, more affluent schools.
In Arlington, for example, teachers in high-minority elementary schools were making more than $3,000 less; in middle schools, almost $5,000 less. "The problem is straightforward," Education Trust President Kati Haycock said in a press release. "As teachers gain in experience and education, they often transfer to more affluent schools, taking their expertise - and their higher salaries - along with them. Districts can change those patterns by paying them more, assigning strong principals and significantly reducing class sizes. But most Texas school districts clearly aren't doing enough of that."
The findings from Ed Trust and similar studies clash with the argument, made so often in education debates, that parents are to blame for achievement gaps. St. Petersburg Times columnist Bill Maxwell made the argument in a recent piece, and the issue is central to a class-action lawsuit facing the Pinellas County school district. (See reporter Tom Tobin's stories here and here.) Clearly, parents are a big part of the puzzle, maybe even the biggest part of the puzzle, maybe even an impossible-for-schools-to-overcome part of the puzzle. But doesn't the Ed Trust study make you wonder: Are parents solely to blame? Are schools also part of the problem? How much difference would it make if poor and minority kids had teachers as good as their white, middle-class peers?
The Gradebook humbly asks: Has anybody done a similar study in Florida? Is there any reason the patterns would be different here?