Sunday, October 23, 2011

From MUSE: Teacher Preparation and the Achievement Gap

Sen. Bernard Sanders [I, VT] last Monday introduced S. 1716: A bill to amend the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 to improve teacher quality and increase access to effective teachers.  The bill's findings are interesting (and are copied below).  They state that teacher quality is the most important factor in student achievement and quote studies that have found that teacher quality is a significant contributor to the achievement gap.

The bill proposes to make changes to 20 U.S.C. 7801 et seq., the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965.  As part of these changes, a detailed definition of "effective" (i.e., "effective teacher") would be inserted, and the state would be required to provide "additional supports" to any district that could not meet "equitable distribution standards," i.e., 20 U.S.C. 6312(c)(1)(L), which dictates that districts must "ensure, through incentives for voluntary transfers, the provision of professional development, recruitment programs, or other effective strategies, that low-income students and minority students are not taught at higher rates than other students by unqualified, out-of-field, or inexperienced teachers[.]"

I'm intrigued and curious to know what you all think.  In some ways, I'm concerned about implementing random, incremental changes (kind of generally, vaguely, incoherently).  In others, I think taking steps toward equitable distribution of qualified teachers is super important.

Also, I want to see these studies they're talking about.  Also, I want to learn more about this Act.


P.S. I know about this bill because of emails I get sent by, which I encourage you all to look into.  You choose search terms, and any time any action is taken by Congress that
implicates that search term, you get an email (or regular digests of these actions). 
(1) Teacher quality is the most important school-related factor influencing student achievement. Compared to fully certified teachers, teachers who have not completed a certification process had significant negative effects on student achievement on 5 of the 6 tests included in a large-scale longitudinal study conducted in Houston, Texas. Teachers who have not completed a certification process were primarily assigned to teach African-American and Latino students. Such teachers’ attrition rates were nearly double those of certified teachers.
(2) Large-scale studies in New York and North Carolina found that teachers were significantly more effective when they were fully prepared and certified prior to entry, had strong academic backgrounds, and had more than 2 years of experience. The North Carolina study found that these factors, together with National Board Certification, accounted for more of the difference in student achievement gains than race and parent education combined.
(3) A study of elementary school students in Arizona found that students of certified teachers performed significantly better than students of under-certified teachers on all 3 subtests of the SAT 9, including reading, mathematics, and language arts. Students of certified teachers out-performed students of under-certified teachers in reading by about 4 months on a grade equivalent scale, and in mathematics and language arts by about 3 months.
(4) A national study of 4,400 early educators found that teacher certification was particularly influential in predicting achievement for African-American students. Having fully certified teachers helped to narrow the achievement gap between African-American and White students in early elementary grades.
(5) A statewide study in Florida found that teachers with pre-service preparation and certification in special education were significantly more effective in teaching special education students in both mainstream and special education classes.
(6) In 2001, students in California’s most segregated minority schools were more than 5 times more likely to have uncertified teachers than students in predominantly White schools, and in some schools a majority of teachers were uncertified. Since teacher credential standards were lowered in the 1990s, nearly 50 percent of the State’s new teachers entered the teaching profession without training, and almost all of these teachers were assigned to teach in high-need schools. Half of California’s current interns-in-training are teaching special education students.
(7) The achievement gap between White students with college-educated parents and Black students with high-school educated parents would be much reduced if low-income minority students were routinely assigned highly qualified teachers, rather than the poorly qualified teachers that such students most often encounter.
(8) A national study found that students in high-minority schools had less than a 50 percent chance of being taught by a mathematics or science teacher who has a degree or a license in the field that the teacher teaches.
(9) As teachers increase their experience in schools, their increased individual and collective knowledge of pedagogy and practice directly and positively impacts student achievement. Teacher retention also results in cost-savings for distressed school districts, reducing the need to constantly recruit, hire, and mentor new teachers. The National Commission on Teaching and America’s Future estimates that growing teacher dropout rates cost over $7,300,000,000 annually.
(10) A nationwide study by the National Center for Education Statistics found that among recent college graduates, 49 percent of those entering the teaching profession without certification left the profession within 5 years, compared to only 14 percent of teachers who were certified.
(11) In special education fields, as in other fields, uncertified teachers are twice as likely to leave their positions, compared to beginning teachers who have greater teaching preparation. According to the United States Office of Special Education Programs, more than 12,000 special educator openings were left vacant or filled with substitute teachers who were not certified in special education.

This post was also published on MUSE '13

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