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Bruno: New Teachers Still Get Tougher Assignments

7755828208_f05a363314Being a new teacher is likely to be challenging no matter where - or who - you teach and teachers typically get better with experience. It probably doesn't make sense, then, to systematically assign newer teachers to lower-achieving students.

Plenty of research has already indicated that lower-achieving schools tend to employ newer and less-qualified teachers. A new study in the journal Sociology of Education, however, suggests that the same pattern persists even within individual schools.

The authors find that teachers with less experience tend to be assigned to classes with lower-skilled students than their more-experienced colleagues at the same site.  This tendency turns out to be stronger in schools where more of the teachers are veterans, suggesting that the formal and informal power teachers accrue as they remain at a site allows them to secure easier teaching assignments.

This phenomenon poses numerous problems. If more academically vulnerable students consistently get less experienced - and therefore less effective - teachers, this will exacerbate achievement gaps. It's also bad for new teachers, who already leave the their placements (or the profession) too frequently to allow the additional burden of more challenging assignments.

And as the authors note there is a further public policy problem: to the extent that value-added models of teacher effectiveness depend on random assignment of students within a school site, these findings call their validity into question.

What to do about the problem is less clear. Mixing all students randomly into heterogeneous classes would make teaching assignments more impartial, but would make differentiating within classes more challenging in the lower grades and would prevent secondary schools from offering appropriately differentiated courses.

Assigning teachers randomly to courses would be "fair", but might introduce its own inefficiencies. Some teachers may be genuinely better-suited to a particular assignment. Others may simply resent being assigned a course they don't care to teach; I'm certainly not the only teacher who prefers teaching some subjects to others.

A more promising solution might be to offer greater pay for more challenging assignments. Identifying "challenging" assignments might be difficult, though, and ultimately principals would still need to be able to make informed, unbiased decisions about how to best assign teachers. I'm not sure how to make that possible. - PB (@MrPABruno) (image source)


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i agree new teachers should not be placed in classrooms with low acheiving students.because they dont have enough experience to teach them the properly. i also agree teachers should get more money.

Let me start by saying that I do agree that the teachers should get more money. They work hard to educate our children and they deserve a great pay. Now, what I don't agree on is not giving the new teachers low achieving students. I think the classes should be mix when it comes to educating children. The only way that a teacher can learn is by getting his/her hands wet and taking the bull by its horns. Life have lessons and so do teaching embrace what is given and you will find yourself exceeding in your teaching career.

There has been a huge focus on the teachers in our communities and they have truly taken the brunt of the blame when it comes to underachieving students. Why is our focus not on the parents? Theres seems to be little to no focus on the individuals instrumental in forming a child's foundation. This is maddening that we even have to worry about underachieving students. Its not a job, its not hard work, just get your children to act with some civility and we wont need to focus on balancing the underachieving students throughout a school system.

It has always been that way when it comes to teachers. The new teachers do not have the passion for the subject like older teachers do. I'm actually going through this situation this semester with one of my instructors. It's kind of like practicing something, the more you practice, the better you will get at it.

The interesting thing about this post is that my education teacher was just telling us about this topic. I understand that the new teachers don’t have the experience with teaching, classroom management, and disciplining the students. However, putting an inexperienced teacher with lower skilled students without proper training will result in a possible unsafe learning environment. In that situation, i think everyone loses; the students, the teacher, and the school. If a school is going to place an inexperienced teacher in a low level classroom, then the school should consider pairing that teacher with a veteran teacher to help mentor that rookie teacher in resolving classroom issues.

@jks - I don't think anybody's arguing that new teachers should always be kept away from low-achieving students. But as it stands they systematically receive low-achieving students, which isn't really ideal, either.

@Rahma - I like a lot about the mentor model, but finding skilled and willing mentor teachers is tough.

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