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Recent studies indicate that unqualified educators teach approximately 5.5 percent of the lessons in the impoverished school districts, which is a factor that explains the poor performance of students in such institutions (Boyd, Lankford, Loeb, & Wyckoff, 2005). On the contrary, unqualified educators teach only about 0.5 percent of the lessons in the imperative schools. Racial discrimination in the education sector is, however, a common phenomenon in the US, which dates back to the 16th century when non-native speakers were not allowed to access schools preserved for the whites. Today the problem is still quite evident in most learning institutions as schools located in poor districts suffer the inadequacy of qualified staff (Kozol, 2012).
There is little evidence in literature exploring the issue of staff inadequacy in the poor school districts but studies link the problem to low incentives in such institutions in terms of consideration for the services of teachers. This study investigates the gap in the quality of education between schools for the wealthy and the ones for the poor concerning the quality of education. The study will also seek to establish that impoverished school districts are inadequately staffed hence leading to poor performance as compared to their counterparts in the imperative institutions. Furthermore, this research study will also shed light on the interventions being made by governmental and non-governmental organizations in an attempt to close the widening gap between the rich and the poor regarding the provision of quality education.
Need for Highly Qualified Teachers
Most studies connect excellent school performance to the availability of qualified teachers and good pay for such educators since high remuneration boosts their morale (Darling-Hammond & Berry, 2006). The US government recognizes this fact and has enacted the No Child Left Behind Act [NCLB] aimed at ensuring equal education opportunities for all including the poor (Omenn Strunk & Robinson, 2006). Under the Act, no child should be discriminated during the acquisition of education and teachers are obliged to provide quality education devoid of bias based on the financial status of the student (Marx & Harris, 2006). However, imbalance in the education sector is evident in the US; the well equipped and staffed schools are preserved for the rich while the lowly plied and poorly outfitted ones are set for the poor (Darling-Hammond & Berry, 2006).
The difference in performance between the schools meant for the poor and the ones for the rich is a clear indicator that qualified teachers play a vital role in the performance of the students. Students from schools perceived to be for the rich record outstanding performance while learners from the institutions alleged to be for the poor obtain poor grades (Rebore, 2015). Therefore, there is a need to equalize the quality of education in all schools to ensure that every child benefits from the skills imparted. Incentives should be created to encourage qualified teachers to work in the poverty prone districts to boost the quality of education in those areas.
Impact of Lower Salaries
Research indicates that the monetary compensation of staff is a key motivating factor and plays a significant role in the recruitment and retention of the best talents (Brownell, Bishop, & Sindelar, 2005). Matching salary with the work performed by an individual is a tool that most researchers have recommended as an incentive to attract and retain the most excellent abilities. In the US education sector, the aspect of matching compensation with the hardships that come along the line of service has not been achieved. The traditional single-salary compensation structure grants equal remuneration to all teachers in every district regardless of the working environment and job demands (Rebore, 2015). Given that the poor learning institutions are located in unpleasant areas and there are no incentives to attract and retain qualified teaching personnel in these regions, most teachers prefer working in more secure environments and attend to the well-prepared students if no hardship allowance is afforded in the impoverished school districts.
Well prepared students, qualified colleagues, and adequacy of resources in the imperative schools act as the key driving forces that make teachers reluctant to accept transfers to the impoverished schools (Brownell et al., 2005). The difficulties associated with teaching in impoverished schools are reflected in the compensation structure of teachers working in those institutions, which harms motivation and increases staff turnover. Studies in economics argue that salaries should be determined through deliberations of issues regarding the working environment with factors like availability of recreational amenities and difficulty of tasks being considered (Monk, 2007).
Lack of incentives in the form of a pay rise is a great hindrance to the achievement of equal education opportunities for all and the problem can only be solved through the introduction of a compensation structure that accommodates the interests of teachers working in impoverished districts. Devoid of such a structure, high staff turnover will continue to be experienced in the poor school districts as teachers utilize their supremacy to transfer to their favorite schools. However, through the American Federation of Teachers and the National Education Association, the American government is gradually replacing the traditional single-salary compensation structure with a modern arrangement that aims at offering better salaries for teachers willing to work in hard-to-staff districts (Kozol, 2005). If well managed, this strategy will go a long way in alleviating the gap that currently exists between the two types of schools regarding the quality of education offered.
Effectiveness of Incentive Programs
The US government and numerous organizations in the country have come up with strategies aimed at reducing the gap in the quality of education that exists between the rich and the poor (Brownell et al., 2005). An example of an organization that has been at the forefront in the implementation of incentive programs is the Teach for America (TFA). TFA is a nonprofit organization that recruits fresh college graduates to work for 2 consecutive years in areas where education inequality is highly evident. Despite criticism from teachers’ unions over the recruitment of ill-equipped staff, the organization has successfully run the project for over 2 decades now and has been successful in reducing the vice.
The government has also launched programs to cope up with the rising need for the provision of equal education opportunities in the United States. The most successful initiative is the North Carolina Teaching Fellows program based in North Carolina, which aims at recruiting enough teachers for the poverty prone areas (Jacob, 2007). The program aims at increasing the number of qualified teachers in the country thus boosting the education sector. Beneficiaries of this program are obliged to provide a four-years service in all schools countrywide. Studies indicate that the majority of the beneficiaries of the program teach in impoverished school districts.
In California, a similar program to the one in North Carolina is available, which aims at encouraging qualified teachers to work in hardship areas (Greenlee & Brown, 2009). The program pays a bonus of $20,000 to each teacher who accepts to work in areas considered poor. The amount is spread over 4 years, and the program has succeeded in bringing teachers to the hardship areas and improving the performance of poor students (Gorski, 2013). The program is premised on the fact that raising the pay of teachers increases their morale and encourages them to work in hardship areas.
Research links performance with highly qualified teachers that can impart the necessary skills to learners in the course of their teaching. Teachers are ethically bound to meet the educational needs of students and help them pass their exams. Through the federal No Child Left Behind Act, the government aims at providing quality education for all devoid of discrimination based on race or financial status. However, the Act is yet to be executed fully as students from poor school districts suffer a great shortage of teachers. The widening gap between the two types of schools is attributed to low motivation among teachers in the poor institutions coupled with the lack of incentives to attract and retain qualified educators.
Hence, there is a necessity to match education in all regions of the nation to ensure that every child achieves the skills taught. Factors such as well equipped students, the sufficiency of resources, and competent coworkers in the imperative institutions make qualified educators unwilling to admit transfers to the impoverished school districts. To overcome this problem, different programs have been executed to increase the morale of teachers and encourage them to teach in hardship areas to improve the quality of learning in those districts.
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Brownell, M. T., Bishop, A. M., & Sindelar, P. T. (2005). NCLB and the demand for highly qualified teachers: Challenges and solutions for rural schools. Rural Special Education Quarterly, 24(1), 9.
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