Letters to the Editor

"Rookie" teachers are not the problem

Re the Aug. 21 article, Report: Poorest schools have more rookie teachers: The new in-depth report by The National Council on Teacher Quality doesn’t “look at the entire picture,” according to Pablo Ortiz, associate superintendent of Miami Dade County Public Schools. The suggestions that more veteran, more experienced teachers alone would resolve the problem of teacher inequality in low performing schools is not supported by the facts.

New teachers are not part of the problem — they are, however, a big part of the solution for impacting high-needs students and we are very fortunate to have these highly qualified rookie teachers in every school. New teachers bring a passionate new energy and the latest teaching methodologies (fresh out of college) to the job. And, young teachers can be excellent role models for children in any neighborhood. They become the tutors, coaches, sponsors of clubs and activity leaders after school and directors of summer programs; and more quality internship programs should be a priority for our poorest schools.

The top two factors impacting high-need students are:

1) Family background: There is a proven correlation between supportive home-life and academic success of all children. This is especially the case for K-5 students. The literature points out that young children with academically active parents are almost twice as likely to succeed. Another crucial period is before a student enters primary school. School readiness studies have shown that parents should introduce children to the alphabet, numbers and the counting system; and, that being read to by a family member encourages them to continue reading and prepares them for classroom-based activities.

2) Resources: Access to resources plays an important role in educational equity. And that begs the question, what about the money? Neither of our last two governors or lawmakers have been aggressive educational proponents in their “race to the bottom” with 47 of the 50 states spending more per pupil each year than Florida. For 2013-14 only Idaho and Utah spent less.

More money per student could provide needed resources for children in low performing schools, which might include mentors for all rookies, additional teachers teamed with pre-school and elementary teachers, smaller class size for middle schoolers and paid release time for educational workshops and seminars.

James Tranthem, Ph.D., community school director, retired, MDCPS, Homestead