"Differing Views of Equity: How Prospective Teachers Perceive their Role In Closing Achievement Gaps"
Association for Education Finance and Policy (AEFP) 43rd Conference
March 15-17, 2018
Title: Differing Views of Equity: How Prospective Teachers Perceive their Role In Closing Achievement Gaps
Author: Emily Penner
Although the US student population continues to diversify, achievement and opportunity gaps persist, raising concerns that teachers’ unconscious biases adversely affect marginalized students. To address this potential, some districts consider teachers’ cultural competencies and equity mindsets in hiring. We use unique essay data from over 10,000 applications to the San Francisco Unified School District between 2009 and 2015. We code applicant responses to a prompt about closing achievement gaps using structural topic modeling (STM) to identify themes in applicants’ beliefs and test how such beliefs and attitudes influence their choice of jobs and their hiring outcomes. Applicants from traditionally marginalized backgrounds are more likely to identify structural causes for inequities and lay out educators’ responsibilities to address inequality through social justice-informed pedagogy, experiences with cultural and linguistic diversity, and incorporating standards and assessment into teaching. Similar themes emerge among applicants applying to schools with more disadvantaged students. In contrast, applicants from more privileged groups focus on engaging with families and communities. Applicants to schools with more-advantaged students focus on individual student needs through differentiated instruction. By understanding teachers’ beliefs about their role in closing achievement gaps, districts may be better able to build a workforce that prioritizes equity and addresses inequality through complementary and effective means. Further, techniques like STM can decipher hard-to-measure practices and beliefs within existing administrative data, providing more information at the point of hire and supporting decision-making in other areas.