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New report by ACTION United calls for more experienced teachers

This article was originally published in The Notebook. In August 2020, The Notebook became Chalkbeat Philadelphia.

Members of ACTION United gathered Thursday on the steps of the School District building to re-ignite a call for more experienced teachers in the city’s high-poverty schools.

The organization, which has chapters in eight neighborhoods in Philadelphia, has released a study that reports, “the lowest poverty schools have the most experienced teachers, and the highest poverty schools have the least experienced teachers, and that this trend has actually grown wider.”

According to the 13-page study – which analyzed 265 District schools in operation in the 2008-09 and 2009-10 school years – districtwide, the number of teachers with less than three years experience grew from 17 percent in 2008-09 to 31.5 percent in 2009-10.

The study also found that students of color are more likely to have inexperienced teachers. Over two-thirds of the schools have more than 90 percent students of color.

A July 2009 consent decree, which ended the District’s 39-year-old desegregation case, spelled out remedies for the issue of inequities of teacher and other resources at the "racially isolated" schools. And District officials have said that the rollout of a "weighted student funding" program next fall intends to remedy those inequities.

But William Browning, legislative and educational director for ACTION United, says parents and the community must “stay vigilant in monitoring” the progress that is being made, specifically the methods used to determine how schools are funded. Currently, the District averages teacher pay across schools.

“We want more transparency in the budget and would like to see actual budgets for each school,” Browning said.

“When you calculate the amount of funds that go into non-Empowerment Schools, schools that have not been continuously failing to meet AYP… that is a larger amount than [what is spent] on Empowerment Schools which are in the inner city and in high-poverty residential areas,” he said.

According to a statement released by the District, the increase in the percentage of teachers with three or fewer years of experience was due in part to a 56 percent increase in the number of new hires for the 2009-10 school year.

"During this same period, even with the significant increase in the number of new hires, the District increased the number of teachers designated as highly qualified from 84 percent to 90 percent," the statement reads.

ACTION United has outlined several recommendations for the District to consider in increasing the number of experienced teachers, including:

  • Using school budget calculations based on actual spending on teachers. “Right now, a teacher with 10 years experience has the same weight on a budget as does a teacher with one year experience,” the report says.
  • Creating transparent budgets that are made available to parents and the community.
  • Use of additional funding to create supports for inexperienced teachers to more effectively do their jobs. This could include teacher mentors or coaches, and expanded professional development.
  • Focusing on increasing teacher retention, including the public reporting of teacher turnover at each school.

Browning said members have invited Superintendent Arlene Ackerman and members of the SRC to a public meeting on Dec. 7 at 6:30 p.m. at Berean Presbyterian Church to discuss the report and answer questions.

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