Magazine article Nation's Cities Weekly

City Schools Can Only Be as Good as the Teachers They Attract

Magazine article Nation's Cities Weekly

City Schools Can Only Be as Good as the Teachers They Attract

Article excerpt

Nationwide, the tide of students dropping out of secondary schools is rising. This year alone, more than 6 million students are at risk of failure.

These adolescents leave school lacking the basic skills needed to compete in the new economy, unable to contribute to the development of a productive workforce, and unprepared to fully participate in the democratic process.

It is well known that high-quality schools are critical to attracting new businesses and residents to communities. For that reason alone, mayors and city councilmembers have an important role to play in helping to stem the flow of teens dropping out of high school.

But to be effective, community leaders must know what the essential elements of successful education reform are, and which reform options will pay the greatest dividends. They must also be aware of current legislative initiatives that have the potential to effect positive change.

First and foremost, successful schools depend on good teachers. Research has shown that teacher quality is the single greatest contributor to gains in student achievement.

However, there are tremendous disparities in the distribution of highly qualified teachers in American schools. Ironically, while low-performing school districts are most in need of high-quality teachers, these schools face the most difficulty in attracting and retaining them.

"The No Child Left Behind Act places new mandates on improving student achievement and school performance," says Susan Frost, executive director of the Alliance for Excellent Education. "But, failing schools face enormous obstacles in meeting the requirement that all teachers must be highly qualified by the 2005-06 school year."

Frost emphasizes the importance of addressing the issues that cause high-quality teachers to avoid hard-to-staff schools.

"Teachers leave at-risk schools because of low pay, difficult working conditions, and a lack of support from school administrators," she said. "Good businesses provide their employees with ongoing training and support--schools need to do no less."

Estimates indicate that approximately two million new teachers will be required over the next decade to meet the needs of the nation's school districts. An adequate supply of teachers may be available, but sufficient incentive to attract high-quality teachers to high-needs schools--and keep them there--is lacking.

Currently, a number of federal legislative and other local initiatives are underway to attract and retain high-quality teachers to low-performing schools:

* The President's budget proposal to increase student-loan forgiveness from $5,000 to $17,500 for teachers in disadvantaged schools was mirrored in a bill (S. …

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