"The percentage of experienced teachers is proportionately lower in our [inner-city neighborhood] schools than they are in . . . schools" in the Northeast, said William Browning, education director of Action United, an organization of low-income families advocating for quality education. "And our schools are continually failing."
The overall percentage of teachers with less than three years experience has grown dramatically in one year - especially in high-poverty schools in the city - widening the teacher gap between high- and low-poverty schools, according to a report the group released yesterday.
Teachers with less than three years experience grew from 17 percent of the total teachers in the district in 2008-09 to 31.5 percent in 2009-10, the report stated.
The district said that the "most significant factor" leading to that was the 56 percent increase in new teachers it hired in the 2009-10 school year compared to 2008-09.
In that same period, the district said that it increased the number of qualified teachers from 84 to 90 percent. The district also said that it added 19 consulting teachers at high-needs schools, and hired 23 new teacher coaches.
"Due to our commitment to increase supports for our teachers . . . the district had, for the first time, more than 50 percent of students scoring proficient or advanced in Pennsylvania's standardized tests," spokeswoman Shana Kemp said in a statement.
"The District's lowest performing schools increased their proficiency rates more than other district schools."
But, according to Action United, high-poverty schools with less-experienced teachers are getting fewer resources, considering that experienced teachers cost more.
The report does credit Superintendent Arlene Ackerman for addressing disparity issues with her proposed weighted student funding. A new funding formula is expected to be released this spring.
Schimri Yoyo, a third-year teacher, agreed that many novice instructors could use more support, but said that the district is making an effort.
"A lot of teachers are frustrated, but they're willing to tough it out," said Yoyo, a special-education teacher who works at one of the district's high-needs schools, Francis Hopkinson, a K-8 school in Hunting Park.
With fewer slots to fill at high-performing schools, newer teachers are usually assigned to struggling schools.
"It's the nature of the beast," Yoyo said. "People with tenure, they usually get first dibs on schools that are not [low-performing]. Most administrators look to get more experienced teachers as opposed to someone brand new."
Social-studies teacher Joseph Fafara, who has taught in the district for eight years, six at Germantown High, said that seasoned educators have put in their time and should have their pick.
"In no profession do more-experienced employees end up where they don't want to work," he said, noting that he enjoys working at his school.
Jerry Jordan, president of the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers, couldn't be reached for comment.
Recommendations from Action United include making school budgets transparent, using additional funding to create more supports, such as teacher mentors or coaches, and publicly reporting teacher turnover rates.