Study Links Charter Schools to Decline of Traditionally Educated Teachers

Image by S. Hermann / F. Richter from Pixabay

As charter schools continue to grow in popularity, education advocates and researchers have become increasingly concerned about how these schools may affect their students and the public school system in general. A recent study from the National Center for Research on Education Access and Choice (REACH) found that increasing a district’s charter school enrollment by only 10% decreases the supply of teachers who have a bachelor’s degree in education by as much as 15.2%.

“Given that teachers are the most critical resource for students, these findings have significant implications for both traditional teacher preparation programs and charter schools,” the report states. “With the rising cost of bachelor’s programs and declining teacher salaries, easing the accessibility of traditional preparation programs in charter-heavy areas may also help stimulate the teacher pipeline.”

What’s more, the disparity in traditionally-educated teachers is more heavily concentrated among Black teachers and schools in metropolitan areas. REACH researchers found that charter schools reduce the supply of traditionally-educated Black teachers (teachers with a Bachelor’s Degree in Education) by 16.9%, compared to only 11.2% of white teachers. In urban schools, charter schools had 13.9% fewer traditionally educated teachers, while rural, or non-metropolitan schools had 29.4% more traditionally educated teachers.

“This could be because there is a larger pipeline of alternatively prepared teachers in those areas, though we are not aware of research on this point,” they wrote. “If there are few alternative sources of teachers outside metro areas, then charter schools may have little choice but to hire from local colleges and universities.”

Charter school experts argue that the decline in traditionally-educated teachers doesn’t necessarily mean that teachers are less effective. However, a report from the Louisiana Legislative Auditor Michael Waguespack seems to disagree. Earlier this year, Waguespack reported that 54% of teachers in Orleans Parish’s all-charter school district are not certified. What’s more, those uncertified teachers were less likely to be rated effective or highly effective. While 51.3% of certified teachers received those ratings, only 43.4% of uncertified teachers received those ratings.

“Overall, we found that teachers with more experience and who are certified are likely to be more effective at improving their student’s academic performance,” Waguespack’s report said.

“There are few contributors more important to the academic success of a student than teacher quality,” said Louisiana Department of Education State Superintendent Dr. Cade Brumley in a written response to Waguespack’s report. “Students, in a state with long-standing educational challenges recently exacerbated by a pandemic and storms, deserve a high-quality teacher in every classroom. We exist to educate students but we cannot exist without teachers. Sadly, over several decades, we have too frequently left our teachers behind.”

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