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

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.