Teachers with different levels of education and experience are assigned by district and school leaders to work at different schools. This is known in educational research as teacher distribution. The equitable distribution of high-quality teachers to low-income schools and students is a challenge in the U.S. International research by Claremont Graduate University Associate Professor Thomas F. Luschei, Michigan State University Associate Professor Amita Chudgar and Florida State University doctoral candidate W. Joshua Rew sheds light on the effect of teacher distribution on educational equity.
Comparing Teacher Distribution Cross-Nationally
These researchers sought to compare the distribution of qualified teachers in Mexico and South Korea across communities of different sizes and across schools serving students whose parents have varying levels of education. When comparing the distribution of teachers cross-nationally, the researchers considered centralized versus local educational decision-making and the country’s commitment to equity. Mexico and South Korea were chosen as points of comparison because these countries are similar in their centralized teacher hiring and placement practices but differ in their commitment to educational equity. By analyzing data from the 2007/2008 Teaching and Learning International Survey, Luschei and his colleagues found that the distribution of qualified teachers in South Korea favors disadvantaged children, while Mexican teachers tend to be distributed in a way that favors advantaged students. Specifically, in South Korea students living in rural areas and those with low parental education have more access to teachers with a better education and more experience, while in Mexico the opposite is true. This evidence shows equity-enhancing patterns of teacher distribution in South Korea and inequitable patterns in Mexico. The authors argue that the differences in the distribution of teacher qualifications in the two countries are due to South Korea’s teacher-related policies and commitment to educational equity, relative to Mexico.
What It Means to You
This study has clear implications for how teachers are assigned to schools and students here at home. Ensuring equitable access to qualified teachers for all children is a challenge faced by policy makers at all levels. This is especially important in countries with high levels of social inequality like the U.S., where research has demonstrated inequitable teacher distribution that places poor, minority, and low-achieving students at a disadvantage. Cross-cultural research is a useful tool to encourage us to examine established practices in a new light. This study shows that when a nation–in this case South Korea—makes a commitment, large-scale educational equity is possible. National, state, district, and school leaders all have a role to play in improving educational equity. This research encourages us to consider how we distribute high-quality teachers in our schools and districts.