In Cash-Strapped School Systems, Inequities Go Beyond Teacher Salaries

In a recent commentary, WHYY’s Chris Satullo pointed out a fundamental problem we’re all too familiar with in our work—that the schools that should pay teachers the most usually pay the least.  Satullo specifically mentioned Philadelphia, Chester and Camden, all places where CLI has invested time and resources to help right an inequity that goes far beyond what teachers are paid. Clearly, urban teachers should be paid as much as their peers in suburban systems. But they also need the same kind of materials, training, coaching, and ongoing support that teachers in more affluent school districts receive as a matter of course.

That belief is at the heart of our work in underperforming schools across the country. Teaching quality has, by far, the greatest in-school impact on student outcomes, and there is no stronger lever to changing the trajectory of a young child’s life than an investment in preparing and supporting his or her teachers. Yet in too many underserved communities, students come to schools with few books and other basic resources—and are taught by teachers who have not been trained in the best ways to teach children to read and do not receive the kind of professional development and support that help them improve over time. 
Improving the quality of teaching has an impact that goes far beyond the classroom. As Satullo points out:
A recent study by professors at Harvard and Columbia universities just estimated that improving the quality of just one teacher in one fourth-grade class improves economic output by $260,000 over the lifetimes of the kids in that class.
That’s why our approach focuses so extensively on coaching and ongoing support—as much as 100 hours for each of our Model Classroom teachers, as well as additional professional development for their peers and leaders in many schools. It’s more costly and time-consuming than traditional professional development, but it’s worth it. Each teacher that receives training, coaching, and other support from CLI will bring those benefits to every student he or she teaches for the rest of his or her career—and help ensure that students in underserved schools get the high-quality education they have every right to expect. 
We may not be able to ensure that all teachers get their financial due, but we can give them the support to improve their craft, to feel respected as professionals, and to have a meaningful impact in the lives of the children who need them the most. As Satullo points out, feeling “they’ve helped launch children towards success… is the payback that matters most to most teachers.”