A nonpartisan organization called the Education Trust has found that students in urban, high-povety high schools were twice as likely to meet State standards when taught by highly rated teachers. This conclusion was not based upon a limited study but from a comprehensive study rating 140,000 teachers in Illinois. Further, teacher experience made a profound difference in student performance. Therefore, to maximize student achievement in the urban high schools it is important to have an experienced, highly rated teacher in the classroom. The question is how does New York City achieve the goal of providing such teachers in their urban high schools?
First, you need to pay a competitive salary. Why would a highly-rated, experienced teacher teach in a school system that pays 15% less than the surrounding suburbs?
Second, you need manageable class sizes. In the New York City high schools the average class size is 32 students compared to 23 students in the surrounding suburbs. Thats 39% more students and less attention given to the needy students.
Third, teacher control of the classroom. In the New York City schools teachers have very little control of the classroom and many of the classrooms have safety problems. DOE student discipline regulations gives classroom teachers little say in removing disruptive and dangerous students.
Fourth, a continuing practical and informative professional development program, led by these very teachers to make other, less experienced teachers better. Instead of ideological (i.e. Columbia Teachers College) mindless professional development that has little if any classroom application.
Finally, the lack of strong and classroom-based administrators. Unlike the suburbs where most administrators were once those highly-qualifed, experienced teachers, many New York City administrators have little classroom experience and come out of a business-based "Leadership Program". These administrators were not master teachers and their experience with dealing with the teaching staff is not collaborative.
How does New York City attract teachers to work in their schools? They have job fairs, out-of-state-recruitment, and yes a global recruitment outreach program! I kid you not.
If they ever found life in space they would probably have a intergalactic job fair, that's how desperate the City is to attract teachers. Furthermore, many of the teachers hired by the City are not really certified as the highly-rated teachers are. In New York City (with State approval), many of the newer teachers come from the NYC fellows program, Teach For America, and other alternate certification programs. In my high school (like most) besides having teachers with alternate certification, we have had teachers from Jamaica, Slovokia, Austria, Nigeria, Germany, Hati, and the Phillipines. Most of the foreign teachers left after their two year commitment was finished . In all cases the reason they left was the culture shock of student disrespect and the tepid backing of the administrators. Very few of the alternate certification teachers last in the profession as the teaching job is found to be too tough to handle. By contrast the suburbs pick and choose among the many applications from quality teachers. Why? because the provide competitive salaries, low class sizes, teacher control of the classroom, and enforceable student discipline codes. The very things a highly-rated teacher looks for.
It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out that to attract highly qualified, experienced teachers you most make the job professionally satisfying, and less emotionally exhausting. Things the New York City school system has failed to do.