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Most new teachers sent to struggling Black schools

Report calls for distribution changes

Chloe Herring | 8/28/2014, 9 a.m.

Miami-Dade County Public schools has done a poor job of distributing veteran teachers equally among its districts, according to a report released last Wednesday by a research organization called the National Council on Teacher Quality (NCQT). The report, titled “Unequal Access, Unequal Results” detailed the findings of a study requested by the local Urban League chapter. The findings were dismal for areas stricken with poverty and heavily populated by Blacks.

NCQT reported that 70 percent of the 60 county schools to earn a D or F letter grade for the 2012 academic year were located in Opa-locka, Miami Gardens, some of North Miami and unincorporated Liberty City. It also found that 63 percent of all first year teachers were concentrated in those same schools.

“We know this is an area of high need and we know students need to accelerate their learning,” said Nancy Waymack, NCQT director, in a public forum hosted by

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Ingram

the Urban League. “Are Blacks getting the short end of the stick? In many cases they are.”

In the report, the concentration of new teachers in some struggling Black schools is called “counterproductive” because first-year teachers are often less effective as they learn to accommodate to the demands of the profession.

One reason the study gives for the uneven distribution is that most job openings were at the identified Black schools. But the number of job openings does not explain why teachers in the Black areas also represented 36 percent of resignations in the county.

Nationally, teachers of Black students are inexperienced, underpaid and often uncertified according the the civil rights office at the U.S. Department of Education. Issues for local teachers included more absences and lower ratings relative to other teachers, although overall MDPS statistics for the two are applaudable.

At the hearing, associate school superintendent Pablo Ortiz, said the county welcomes the findings.

“Tonight is not about defending what we’ve done, but about having an honest conversation,” he said.

But Ortiz pointed out a weakness in NCQT’s report.

“The reality is some of the data is outdated by two years,” he said.

MDCP had already identified many of the concerns raised by the NCTQ.

Their continued efforts are in line with NCTQ’s suggestions, Ortiz said. He then presented to an audience the improved graduation and school grades for eight predominantly Black schools in question.

The improvements accounted for the most recent school year and showed progress over the last six.

Fedrick Ingram of the United Teachers of Dade said the NCTQ report was not without merit, but failed to consider the effects of parent involvement and the energy of new teachers.

Ingram also said the influence of poverty as a factor was not addressed, although the study acknowledged that the Black schools were attended by low-income children.

“Our schools are a microcosm of what happens in the community. If we ultimately want to make the school better let’s make the community better as well,” he said. “You can’t just make the teachers the target of everything bad.”

Waymack defended the report, pushing for more experienced teachers for low-performing Black students.

“Given what’s in control of the district, teachers make the biggest impact,” she said.