Md. School Leaders Find Disproportionate Number of Inexperienced Teachers in Communities of Color

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Maryland schools with the poorest students and the highest number of minority students have fewer educators than other schools and a disproportionate number of inexperienced teachers.

A new state report card for the 2018-2019 school year, released Tuesday by the Maryland State Department of Education, showed that schools with the most low-income students had 5,981 fewer educators and 12% more inexperienced teachers than schools with the least low-income students.

An “inexperienced teacher” is defined as someone who has taught for three years or less, said Chandra Haislet, the director of MSDE Office of Accountability during a virtual state Board of Education meeting Tuesday.

In parallel, schools with the most students of color had 1,195 fewer educators and 14% more inexperienced teachers than schools with fewest students of color.

Kent and Dorchester counties had the highest percentage of inexperienced educators, 32.3% and 29% respectively. Out of all Baltimore City educators, 20.8% were inexperienced, while in Montgomery County, 12.3% were inexperienced.

Decisions on starting teacher placements are made at the local superintendent’s office, State Superintendent of Schools Karen B. Salmon said. “It is a local issue that needs to be addressed.”

The report card also revealed that 99% of Maryland high school students earned a diploma and 31.2% met the rigorous high school performance indicator.

Salmon also gave an update on how MSDE has been getting information from the public since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. The state superintendent’s office has received over 5,600 letters or online messages, with more than 4,400 related to coronavirus, she said. Educators, parents and community members each made up around 20% of the correspondence.

“We respond to all of these contacts,” Salmon said.

Since June 1, 499 individuals wrote to the state superintendent office, Salmon said. Out of the 225 parents, 58% said they preferred in-person learning and 27% wanted distance learning. Of the total 108 educators, 93% said they preferred virtual learning as opposed to 4% who favored in-person instruction.

The board on Tuesday also voted to adopt new state social studies standards, a curriculum push that was initiated in 2018 and “has intentionally focused on issues of racism, agency, empowerment and discrimination, as well as the historic and contemporary battles for equity,” said Bruce Lesh, the director of social studies at MSDE.

The new social studies framework includes incorporating how the Immigration Act of 1924, the Ku Klux Klan and the Tulsa race massacre of 1921 perpetuated racism and discrimination in the United States into history curricula, as well as how the Great Depression and the Dust Bowl affected farmers, Mexican immigrants and other racial minorities in the country.

Most local school systems use the state standards as the baseline of their curriculum and then expand beyond that to make sure they align with it, Lesh said. In order to ensure that local schools are complying with the state framework, MSDE regularly assesses how U.S. history is taught in 8th grade, as well as U.S. government high school curricula, Lesh said.

Last month, the board authorized a new task force on achieving academic equity and excellence for Black boys. The 22 members will first examine reports of previous MSDE commission findings that were never fully implemented, said Vermelle Greene, a member of the state school board. They’ll look into the recent recommendations from the Commission on Equity and Excellence in Education, a task force on student discipline regulations and particularly a 2007 task force on the education of Maryland’s African-American males.

The goal is to produce a “how-to” guide with accountability measures by February 2021, with concrete ways in which Maryland schools can provide social and emotional behavioral support and recruit component teachers needed for Black boys to excel academically. Previous task forces and commissions fell short on keeping educators accountable after their reports came out, Greene said.

“This is our way of ensuring we don’t continue to see the test scores that consistently show our Black boys and our Hispanic boys at the bottom of test scores and at the top of suspension rates,” Greene said. “No more fancy reports. We’ve got fancy reports with glossy covers all over the place. We need a report that’s going to say ‘all right, let’s have a how-to guide and help people.’”

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Elizabeth Shwe
Shwe covered California state politics during her internship at The Sacramento Bee. She is a 2020 graduate of Princeton University with a degree in political science. At Princeton she was a producer for WPRB 103.3 FM News & Culture section, the station’s only long form podcast-type program. Shwe also wrote for The Daily Princetonian, and tutored with the Petey Greene Program, which offers free tutoring to incarcerated people. Shwe is a Report for America corps member.