Providing an equal education for all students in our public schools is a goal that has yet to be accomplished in our country. Minority students continue to experience the negative effects of institutionalized inequality in the public school system. Year after year, their access to an equal education compared to that of their white, affluent counterparts is undermined and not provided. With that said, we’re going to focus on an inequality that minority students experience in public schools: teaching and staffing.
Teaching and Staffing
According to the “Civil Rights Data Collection,” published by the U.S. Department of Education Office for Civil Rights, teacher and staffing equity is not a reality for our students. Published in 2016, the release reports its findings with data from the 2013-2014 academic year.
With regards to teachers, the release stated that minority students “are more likely to attend schools with higher concentrations of inexperienced teachers.” What does this look like?
- “7% of black students, 6% of Latino students, and 6% of American Indian or Alaska Native students attend schools where more than 20% of teachers are in their first year of teaching, compared to 3% of white students and 3% of Asian students.
- 9% of teachers in schools with high black and Latino student enrollment* are in their first year of teaching, compared to 5% of teachers in schools with low black and Latino student enrollment.”
What are the implications for these students that attend schools with more inexperienced teachers? According to Jennifer King Rice’s article published by the National Center for Analysis of Longitudinal Data in Education Research, “research shows that, on average, teachers with more than 20 years of experience are more effective than teachers with no experience, but are not much more effective than those with 5 years of experience (Ladd 2008).” With that said, minority students are attending schools not only with more inexperienced teachers, but also with less effective teachers. This means they are less likely to learn as much as the white and Asian students, who attend schools with lower concentrations of these inexperienced teachers.
In addition, the “Civil Rights Data Collection” also stated that while most high school students do have access to a school counselor, “1.6 million students attended a school with an SLEO, but not a school counselor.” Short for “sworn law enforcement officer,” an SLEO has arrest authority, may be considered a school resource officer, and can be employed by any entity. A school counselor, however, is a professional staff member that has specific duties relating to activities like counseling with students and parents, assisting students in making education and career choices, and so on.
What are the implications for these students that attended schools with an SLEO, but not a school counselor? Given the descriptions of each staff member’s role, it’s clear that neither position could replicate the other’s contributions. The “Civil Rights Data Collection” reported that “Latino students are 1.4 times as likely to attend a school with an SLEO but not a school counselor as white students; Asian students are 1.3 times as likely; black students are 1.2 times as likely.” According to an article analyzing the implications of a new analysis on school counselors, “hiring just one additional school counselor in an average American school could have about a third of the effect of recruiting all the school’s teachers from a pool of candidates in the top 15 percent of their profession.” With that said, minority students aren’t receiving the help they deserve from school counselors. This help includes working through behavioral problems, mental health concerns, and other concerns that might hamper students’ success inside and outside of the school.
Given the racial disparities in teaching and staffing, just one variable highlighted in the release in the by U.S. Department of Education Office for Civil Rights, it’s clear that our public schools have a long way to go. Providing an equal education for all students is something to take seriously each and every day, but until inequalities in schools and society as a whole, like with teaching and staffing, are addressed, releases like the “Civil Rights Data Collection” will continue to highlight the inequalities present.