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Poor Working Conditions Make Urban Schools Hard-to-Staff

horngTitle: Poor Working Conditions Make Urban Schools Hard-to-Staff

Author: Eileen Lai Horng

Date: March 2005

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Qualified teachers powerfully influence student achievement. However, some schools and some groups of students, namely Latinos, African Americans, and students whose families are poor, have far less access to qualified teachers than other groups. This brief explores reasons for the unequal distribution of qualified teachers. Why do some schools have difficulty attracting and retaining qualified teachers? Poor working conditions are at the heart of the problem. Facilities that are not clean and safe, poor administrative support, large class sizes, insufficient resources for students, and school policies made without teacher participation discourage qualified teachers from working at some schools. The study does not dismiss commonplace ideas about why teachers decide where to teach - salaries and student demographics, for example. However, new ideas and their policy implications emerge from this study. When seeking to recruit and retain teachers to work at “hard-to-staff” schools, education leaders and policy makers should collect data that reveal the quality of teachers’ working conditions and improve those conditions that are disincentives for qualified teachers.

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