How about a crusade for teacher equity?

crusadeI’m kind of glad the ruckus over the parent trigger is over for now. I continue to believe that despite how mercurial it was, there are far more issues that can unite parents, the press and policymakers, if only we can wall off the static and talk.

Perhaps this is one: I think most of us can agree that poor and minority students are getting shortchanged when it comes to getting the best teachers in traditional public schools. I think most of us can agree this is fundamentally unfair to students and teachers alike.

No matter how you define teacher quality – and let’s leave teacher evaluations out of this for now because, sheesh, that is a mess – poor and minority students get less of what is ideal and more of what isn’t. There are far more rookie teachers in high poverty schools, far more teachers who needed multiple attempts to pass certification exams, far fewer board certified. In many urban districts, the teacher transfer pipeline is one-way from inner city to leafy burbs. Given what we know about great teachers – that they are the biggest in-school variable in student achievement, that they can and do change lives – this is unconscionable.

The latest evidence is from a Stanford University study published last month. It’s based on data from the Miami-Dade School District. And it finds that even within schools, lower-performing students are more likely to be taught by the less-than-ideal teachers.

I wish issues like this got more media attention, especially in Florida. As far as I can tell, the only major news outlets that wrote about the Stanford study were Education Week and BET. I know reporters are under more stress than ever, and the timing – near the end of the Florida legislative session – couldn’t have been worse. But this isn’t a fleeting issue.

It’s rich with data and complexity (which makes it fun, no?). And there are plenty of bite-sized angles that can be pursued so reporters can still feed the beast, make their editors happy and give readers a fuller picture of what’s happening in local schools. I can’t think of a good reason for independent, evidence-driven reporters to take a pass.

I wish parent groups would put their muscle behind it too. I’m not totally sure why teacher equity isn’t on their radar; I think the lack of a media spotlight is part of it. But I think it should be, if for no other reason than the nexis between it, student performance and the school choice issues they are so vocal about.

All this isn’t to say there are easy solutions. This is prickly every which way. But where there’s a will, there’s hope for progress. I can’t see why parents, the press and policymakers wouldn’t all be on the same side here. I can’t imagine a more formidable crusade if they were.

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BY Ron Matus

Ron Matus is director for policy and public affairs at Step Up for Students and a former editor of redefinED. He joined Step Up in February 2012 after 20 years in journalism, including eight years as an education reporter with the Tampa Bay Times (formerly the St. Petersburg Times). Ron can be reached at or (727) 451-9830. Follow him on Twitter @RonMatus1 and on facebook at