the challenges of staffing urban schools with effective teachers

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A report about school staffing in urban areas.


Princeton University

The Challenges of Staffing Urban Schools with Effective Teachers Author(s): Brian A. Jacob Source: The Future of Children, Vol. 17, No. 1, Excellence in the Classroom (Spring, 2007), pp. 129-153 Published by: Princeton University Stable URL: . Accessed: 08/07/2011 00:10Your use of the JSTOR archive indicates your acceptance of JSTOR's Terms and Conditions of Use, available at . JSTOR's Terms and Conditions of Use provides, in part, that unless you have obtained prior permission, you may not download an entire issue of a journal or multiple copies of articles, and you may use content in the JSTOR archive only for your personal, non-commercial use. Please contact the publisher regarding any further use of this work. Publisher contact information may be obtained at . . Each copy of any part of a JSTOR transmission must contain the same copyright notice that appears on the screen or printed page of such transmission. JSTOR is a not-for-profit service that helps scholars, researchers, and students discover, use, and build upon a wide range of content in a trusted digital archive. We use information technology and tools to increase productivity and facilitate new forms of scholarship. For more information about JSTOR, please contact

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Brian A. JacobBrianJacobexamineschallengesfaced by urbandistrictsin staffingtheir schoolswith effective teachers. He emphasizes that the problem is far from uniform. Teacher shortagesare more severe in certainsubjectsand gradesthan others, and differ dramatically fromone school to another. The Chicago public schools, for example, regularlyreceive roughlyten applicantsfor each teachingposition. But manyapplicantsare interested in specific schools, and districtofficials struggleto find candidatesfor highlyimpoverishedschools. Urbandistricts'difficultyin attractingand hiringteachers,saysJacob,means that urbanteachers are less highly qualified than their suburbancounterpartswith respect to characteristics such as experience,educationalbackground, and teachingcertification.But they maynot thus be less effective teachers.Jacobcites recent studies that have found that manyteachercharacteristics bear surprisingly little relationshipto student outcomes. Policies to enhance teacher must thus be evaluatedin terms of their effect on student achievement,not in terms of quality conventionalteacher characteristics. Jacob then discusses how supply and demand contributeto urban teacher shortages.Supply factors involve wages, workingconditions, and geographicproximitybetween teacher candidates and schools. Urbandistrictshave tried variousstrategiesto increasethe supplyof teacher candidates(includingsalaryincreasesand targetedbonuses) and to improveretentionrates(includingmentoringprograms).But there is little rigorousresearchevidence on the effectiveness of these strategies. Demand also has a role in urban teacher shortages.Administrators urban schools may not in or value high-quality teachers. Humanresourcedepartmentsrestrictdistrictofficials recognize from makingjob offers until late in the hiringseason, after manycandidateshave accepted positions elsewhere. Jacob argues that urban districts must improve hiring practices and also reevaluatepolicies for teacher tenure so that ineffective teacherscan be dismissed. www.futureofchildren.orgA. Brian Jacobis assistantprofessor publicpolicy the JohnF.Kennedy of at The Schoolof Government, Harvard University. authoris grateful for excellentresearchassistanceprovided J. D. LaRock for manyhelpful and Jacob,SusannaLoeb,Jonah by suggestionsfromRobin Cecilia at of Rockoff, conference. Rouse,and otherparticipants the Future Children VOL. 17 / NO. 1 / SPRING 2007 129



A. Jacob

is more daunting today than ever. Although the United States has made importanteconomic progress over the past half century, many of the nation'schildren remain impoverished. In 2004, according to the Census Bureau, 13 million Americanchildren under age eighteen lived in poverty-an overall child poverty rate of 17.8 percent. Perhaps more important, structural changes in the economy have dramaticallyraised expectations for public schools over the past several decades. Although it was once possible for adults to earn a productive living with only rudimentaryacademic skills, recent technological advances have made it increasingly difficult for those with anything less than a college degree to find a job that offers a living and other wage.' Todayeven manufacturing blue-collarjobs require knowledge of algebra, as well as sophisticatedreadingcomprehension and problem-solvingskills. In this new environment,schools are being asked to provide all students an education once enjoyed by only a select few. Teachersplay a criticalrole in schooling,particularly in inner-city school districts where childrenoften have less supportat home. But central-city districts often have difficulty finding qualified teachers. Accordingto federal statisticsin the Schoolsand StaffingSurvey (SASS), 34.7 percent of central city schools had difficultyhiring a math teacher, comparedwith only 25.1 percent of suburban schools.2 In this article I examine the challenges that urban districts face in staffing their schoolswith effective teachers. First, I provide a de130 THE FUTURE OF CHILDREN


chools serving inner-city students face the challenge of preparing children from disadvantaged neighborhoods to be productive citizens. The task, always difficult,

tailedlook at urbanschoolsand schooldistricts, highlighting some of the important

differfromboth districts waysin whichurbanwealthier suburban districts and high-poverty rural districts. Next, I describe the staffing

difficultiesencounteredby urban schools,noting in particular that teachers in urban districts are less highly qualified than their suburban counterparts with respect to criteria such as experience, educational background, and teaching certification. I then review evidence on teacher effectiveness, exploring whether highly qualified teachers are the most effective at promoting student learning. After examining why it is hard for urban districts to staff their schools, I discuss policy options for raising the quality of the teacher workforce in urban areas and assess the evidence on each option.

A Portrait of Urban Districts and SchoolsWhat is an urban school? For many Americans, the term urban school evokes an image of a dilapidated school building in a poor inner-city neighborhood populated with African American or Hispanic children. How accurate is that image? By definition, of course, urban schools are located in large central cities. But although these communities are often characterized by high rates of poverty, poverty itself is not unique to urban areas and can be found, in particular, in many schools in the nation's rural areas. In this section I highlight key features of urban schools and school districts that distinguish them from both rural and suburban districts. I then show how those features contribute to the staffing challenges faced by these districts. The statistics shown in table 1 present a detailed portrait of urban schools and communities. Unless otherwise noted, the data are drawn from the Schools and Staffing Survey

The Challenges

of Staffing

Urban Schools

with Effective


Table 1. Students and Schools in Urbanand SuburbanDistricts and in All Public SchoolsPercent unlessotherwise specified Characteristic Students ShareAfrican American ShareHispanic Shareminority Sharereceiving I services Title Shareparticipating free or reduced-price in lunchprogram Sharespecialeducation Sharelimited proficient English Shareof 4th graders or on math scoringproficient advanced NAEP Shareof 4th graders or on scoringproficient advanced NAEP reading Shareof schoolswhere> 90 percentof 12th graders graduated Community rate Poverty rate Employment crimerateper 100,000 inhabitants Violent crimerateper 100,000 inhabitants PropertySchool and district

Allpublic schools

Central city


16.8 17.7 39.7 27.5 41.6 12.8 10.8 32 30 73.0 9.2 5.8 466 3,517 47,315,700 537 ... 9.7 3.1...

28.4 28.9 64.0 40.4 56.4 12.9 17.3 27 22 55.0 13.6 7.5 506 3,697 13,972,000 636 9,980 13.0 12.41.4

12.3 14.6 31.8 19.7 32.1 12.6 8.2 36 33 73.2 6.0 4.6 377 4,110 24,915,800 589 3,664 9.2 3.01.2

of Number studentsenrolled public in schools number studentsperschool of Average number studentsperdistrict of Average Shareof all children schools attending private number teachersnot renewed dismissed of or AverageAverage share of teachers dismissed

Schoolresources Perpupil 2000-01 (dollars) expenditures, number studentsperteacher of Average full-time teachersalary(dollars) Average regular, Shareof schoolswithtemporary buildings Shareof schoolsthat routinely used commonareasforinstructional purposes Shareof schools in whichsome teachersdidnot havetheirownclassrooms becauseof lackof space Shareof schoolswitha library mediacenter Shareof medialibraries computer with access number workstations Internet of with access in medialibraries Average 7,268 14.6 44,400 31.7 19.2 26.7 93.7 92.7 13.1 7,812 15.0 45,400 37.7 21.3 27.9 92.9 92.3 13 7,542 14.6 46,100 34.4 19.0 29.1 94.1 94.5 14.2

Notes:Unlessnotedbelow,allstatisticscome fromthe 2003-04 Schoolsand Staffing and fromNational Center Edfor Survey weredrawn u


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