Dallas Morning News, February 11, 2008: Students Deserve Better

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Moving the needle on student achievement in Texas requires making sure the most disadvantaged students get the best possible instruction. But that combination isn’t showing up enough in Texas.

In the state’s 50 largest school districts, poor and minority students are likely to get the least experienced and less successful instructors, according to the Education Trust, a Washington-based group that monitors student achievement.

Even within Dallas schools, which say they are aggressively tackling this disparity, about 14 percent of teachers in the highest-poverty schools have fewer than three years of experience, compared with 9 percent of teachers in the lowest-poverty schools.

Statewide, similar gaps exist on teacher credentials. About 32 percent of teachers assigned to high-poverty middle schools in Texas aren’t fully certified in the subjects they teach. That compares with 19 percent in schools with the fewest low-income students. At the high school level, the gap widens. About 37 percent of teachers in high-poverty schools lack subject certification, compared with 16.1 percent in the most affluent high schools.

These disparities compound achievement deficiencies that many low-income and minority students bring to the classroom. In the next few weeks, school districts will submit plans to the Texas Education Agency on how to use $148 million in teacher incentive pay to improve classroom performance. Those plans must allocate significantly additional dollars to match talented teachers with disadvantaged students. Moreover, the TEA, which is responsible for reviewing all proposals, must hold the districts to that statewide objective.

Assigning less-experienced teachers to academically struggling students year after year perpetuates a cycle of poor academic achievement. And that’s why a portion of Dallas Achieves provides bonuses to teachers to move to the district’s lowest-performing schools.

Texas has made student achievement gains at the elementary school level but will not be able to sustain improvement unless this teacher-student mismatch gap narrows. To accomplish that, districts have to fundamentally change the way they reward teachers and bolster underachieving students. The time for change is here.


The average teacher salary gaps between the highest- and lowest-minority elementary schools in some of the largest districts in Texas.

Arlington ISD, -$3,070*

Austin ISD, -$3,010

Dallas ISD, -$424

Fort Worth ISD, -$1,666

Houston ISD, -$1,074

*negative numbers indicate that the average teacher salary is less in the highest-minority schools.

SOURCE: The Education Trust

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