Poor kids deserve good teachers, too
The uneven distribution of teacher talent in the D.C. schools is unacceptable in a nation that views education as the path to the American dream. [“Top teachers have uneven reach in District,” Metro, Nov. 13].
Across the United States, school districts that have a mix of affluent and high-poverty neighborhoods are vulnerable to creating an “opportunity gap” in which the more wealthy kids have better resources and those better resources lead to better outcomes.
In some instances, not only are their teachers better credentialed, more experienced and more talented, but children in affluent areas also have a stronger, more challenging curriculum and learn in buildings that are in far better condition than those of their poorer peers. Still, we would all agree that kids from across economic groups deserve the same quality from tax-funded public schools.
This resource disparity is regrettable, but it can be addressed head-on if school boards (or in this case, the mayor and schools chancellor) become more purposeful in decision-making and develop enforceable policies that make fairness and opportunity a higher priority. For example, the Charlotte-Mecklenburg school system in North Carolina has a strategic staffing initiative that provides incentives for a talented principal and hand-picked excellent teachers to move as a unit to underperforming schools — usually in poor areas.
Until policymakers deploy time and attention to this insidious problem, children in the District and around the country who start out with considerably less will, as a consequence, get less from education. For poor children, fairness is the key that unlocks our democracy.
The writer is director of education law and policy for the national office of Appleseed, a nonprofit group that works to solve public policy problems.
Edwin C. Darden, Washington
| November 19, 2010; 7:43 PM ET
Categories: D.C., HotTopic, education, schools
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