Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Recruiting And Retaining Classroom Talent: The L.A. Story

Some 15 years ago, a judge told the Los Angeles Unified School District to recruit more highly qualified teachers Or Else. It looks as if things have improved:
Satisfied with efforts to put experienced, qualified teachers in its 750 schools, a judge lifted a consent decree imposed 15 years ago on the nation's second-largest school district.

The Los Angeles Unified School District has spent $11 million a year in an aggressive campaign to comply with the consent decree and create a better teacher mix in the sprawling district.

On Monday, Superior Court Judge Joanne O'Donnell refused to extend the decree another five years.

"This reflects the progress we have made. It now gives us the ability to focus our resources at schools where student performance indicates they really need help," Superintendent Roy Romer said.

The decree was issued in 1991 in response to a lawsuit filed by five parents claiming inner city schools and others suffered academically because there were fewer experienced teachers than in other district schools.

Under the consent decree, the district was required to spend more money at schools where teacher salaries fell below the district average. The money was spent on professional development and other support services.

"Over the last four years, we've changed the recruiting and got an equal percentage of fully credentialed teachers all over the district," said Deborah Hirsh, the district's chief personnel officer.

Nearly 93 percent of the district's 34,610 teachers are now fully credentialed and fewer than 500 hold emergency permits, officials said. The average teacher salary in the LAUSD is about $58,000.

"We were pretty disappointed in the decision, because there's still a great deal of disparity between the number of qualified, properly credentialed teachers in different parts of the school district, and that's what the decree was intended to address," plaintiff attorney Lew Hollman said.

The average teacher has 10.3 years of experience in all of the school district's eight regional areas, except No. 7, which covers South Los Angeles, where the average is 8.2 years, officials said.

"We have isolated situations that are not perfect," Hirsh said. "At the secondary schools we struggle with math, science and special education and we're working on the next school year to make sure the hardest-to-staff schools get their fair share right off the get-go."
Considering the working conditions that are found in many of L.A.'s inner-city schools and the high cost of buying a home anywhere in the Los Angeles area, the district still has its work cut-out.
See our latest education-related entries right here and today's edition of The Carnival Of Education over there.