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Summer 2008 Vol. 15. No. 4 Focus on Following the Money

Activism around the city

Teacher incentive grants: priority for local activists

By by Paul Socolar on May 22, 2008 12:00 AM

With the District’s four-year teacher pact expiring in September and negotiations underway, a coalition of local groups is calling for the next contract to spell out new steps that would attract more highly qualified teachers to schools with the greatest staffing needs.

The Cross City Campaign for School Reform, a collaborative of Philadelphia’s education organizing groups, says the District can improve working conditions at schools with high teacher turnover by giving these schools “teacher incentive grants.” Such grants could be used to hire teacher coaches and mentors, reduce class size, or fund professional development – all proven teacher recruitment and retention strategies.

Other proposals from Cross City include establishing an earlier hiring process for the hardest-to-staff schools and enacting a cap on the number of uncertified and inexperienced teachers working at a given school.

Cross City groups have noted that teacher quality is a major problem in the District’s “Corrective Action II” schools – schools that have failed to meet their adequate yearly progress targets for five years or more.

Speaking at a City Council hearing on May 8, Youth United for Change member Monica Pedraza, an Edison ninth-grader, said, “Data shows that only 57 percent of Corrective Action II high school teachers are highly qualified. There is something very wrong with that, don’t you think?”

Teachers in Philadelphia’s highest-poverty schools are almost twice as likely to lack full certification as teachers in schools with less than 80 percent low-income students, according to a 2007 study by Research for Action.

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