The pandemic amplified disparities across the state — and can inspire long-term policy changes to finally achieve educational equity.
Vice President of Programs
Raise Your Hand Texas
Our state leaders have spoken repeatedly about not letting this public health crisis turn into a generational education crisis.
And, in a recent interview, Larry Taylor, Chairman of the Texas Senate Committee on Education, reiterated the sentiment when discussing the importance of maintaining funding and adopting other state policies aimed at tackling the challenges of the pandemic during this legislative session.
At Raise Your Hand Texas we certainly agree that the state should fulfill its funding commitments to our public schools, but how we allocate that funding is crucial. We propose legislators focus on several policy changes targeted at supporting the solution to the problems we face. And that solution is our teachers.
The research is clear, long-term sustainable improvement in education needs to start with the system most critical to student learning. And educators are telling us that it will take teachers — lots of skilled, well-trained teachers — to close the learning gaps sustained during the last year.
Raise Your Hand recently commissioned the University of Houston to conduct a study on the state of the teacher pipeline here in Texas to get a more expansive view of the challenges facing the teacher workforce. The report reveals a number of findings, some of which tell an unsettling story.
The study found the purchasing power of a teacher’s average salary in 2018-19 was $1,241 less than it was in 2010-11. It also showed that students of color and students from low-income backgrounds are more likely to be taught by a teacher trained in for-profit alternative certification programs, which require very little training in a classroom before becoming a teacher and have lower retention rates in the field than university-based programs.
Additionally, the report reveals that, in a state where the student population is increasingly diverse, the state’s teacher workforce remains mostly white. This matters because research shows all students, but especially students of color, perform better when they have access to teachers from diverse backgrounds.
These findings weren’t a surprise, though perhaps they’ll be a wake-up call. The pandemic didn’t cause these challenges — it did, however, amplify the existing economic and racial equity issues harming the profession and our students and brought the lack of diversity into clear view.
At Raise Your Hand Texas, we believe it is our moral imperative to ensure that all 5.5 million students in Texas receive an education that helps them reach their full potential. That is why, in 2017, we launched Raising Texas Teachers, a 10-year $50 million project designed to improve teacher quality and elevate the status of the teaching profession statewide. After almost three years of working closely with current and future teachers and universities, we believe Texas can both deepen and diversify the pool of teachers entering the field, promote continuous improvement in teacher preparation, and improve teacher quality overall.
We also know from our recent polling that, while support for teachers is high, Texans see the disparities in teacher quality as an issue needing to be addressed. While 92 percent of Texans report the same or more appreciation for their schools than before the pandemic, 69 percent said students not being placed with an experienced or well-trained teacher is a barrier to an equitable education.
Moving forward, we hope to work with the legislature, as well as other education allies, including Commissioner of Education Mike Morath, on several targeted, long-term, systemic improvements in the area of teacher recruitment, development, and retention.
- The establishment of scholarship and loan forgiveness programs to lower the financial barriers to high-quality teacher preparation programs.
- The development of a more robust state data system that allows aspiring teachers to see which preparation programs are meeting certain quality indicators, including preparedness to teach and retention.
- Adoption of policies promoting research-based improvements for all preparation programs, including enhanced clinical preparation or in-classroom experience.
Every student in every classroom deserves an effective and well-trained teacher every year. And with the support from the public and our state leaders, there is no better time to tackle this issue. Together, we have the opportunity to move the needle on the persistent inequities that exist in our teacher workforce and ensure the current health crisis doesn’t become a generational education crisis.
Cody Huie is the Vice President of Programs at the Raise Your Hand Texas Foundation, a non-profit organization that invests in programs, conducts research, and advocates for policies that strengthen and improve Texas public schools.