ERIC Identifier: ED478408
Publication Date: 2003-07-00
Author: Goldhaber, Dan - Anthony, Emily
Clearinghouse on Urban Education New York NY.
Indicators of Teacher Quality. ERIC Digest.
The No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act requires that states employ only "highly
qualified" teachers by the end of the 2005-2006 school year, and, indeed,
research has demonstrated teacher quality is the most important educational
factor predicting student achievement (Ferguson, 1998; Hanushek, Kain, &
Rivkin, 1999). Although studies have produced contradictory findings about which
attributes of teachers are most likely to translate into effective classroom
performance, some information on how specific teacher attributes correlate with
teacher quality is available, and it can help guide administrators' hiring
decisions. This digest briefly reviews this knowledge.
TEACHER DEGREE LEVELS
The research on the value of a
teacher's advanced degree is mixed: some studies show that while additional
teacher education has a positive correlation with student achievement in some
cases, others find that it negatively affects achievement (Greenwald, Hedges, & Laine, 1996; Hanushek, 1986). Goldhaber and Brewer (1997) found that a
teacher's advanced degree is not generally associated with increased student
learning from the eighth to the tenth grade, but having an advanced degree in
math and science for math and science teachers appears to influence students'
achievement. The same results were not found to be true for teachers of English
Goldhaber and Brewer (1997) suggest that the findings of other studies about
the impact on student achievement of teachers' advanced degrees are inconclusive
because they considered only the level of the degree and not the subject of the
degree, which may affect student achievement in different ways than the degree
level. Nevertheless, results from all the studies seem to imply that there is
not a positive correlation between teachers having advanced degrees in subjects
other than those they teach and student achievement.
TEACHER PREPARATION: PEDAGOGICAL VERSUS CONTENT
Here, too, there is no strong consensus about the value of
pedagogical preparation for teachers, the teaching of how to teach. In addition,
because the quality and content of teacher training programs vary greatly, the
impact is not always clear (Wilson, Floden, & Ferrini-Mundy, 2001). Some
teacher education courses focus on content specific teaching methods (for
certain school or student types), while others teach subject specific teaching
methods. Few studies directly link how the type of education courses taken by
teachers affects student achievement. Discussions about pedagogical preparation
focus instead on secondary measures like the relationship between student
achievement and teachers' scores on standardized tests measuring pedagogical
knowledge, and the relationship between student achievement and teacher
certification status, considered an indication that the teacher completed some
kind of pedagogical training.
Because content knowledge is also not clearly defined or measurable in all
content areas, studies often rely on an individual's undergraduate coursework as
proxies for content preparation. Coursework, however, varies across institutions
as does an individual's mastery of content. Whereas Goldhaber and Brewer (1997)
found that students who had teachers with subject-related advanced degrees in
math and science performed better than students of teachers without subject
training, Monk and King-Rice (1994) found that even in subjects where
subject-specific training may make a difference (e.g., math), its impact depends
on the context of the classes taught: the number of college math courses taken
by teachers had an impact on high school students' math achievement, but
additional teacher coursework beyond that only mattered if the teacher was
teaching an advanced course.
Given that additional studies had similar findings, it can be concluded that
teachers with advanced degrees in specific subjects can have an impact on
student learning in those subjects in certain settings. There is too little
research available to conclude whether non-subject-specific degrees are
correlated with student outcomes.
Traditionally, state teacher licensure
has helped ensure at least a minimal standard of teaching competence. Licensing
typically requires that prospective teachers complete a standard set of college
level courses in pedagogy or in the subject they wish to teach, and that they
pass one or more standardized tests. Because of a tighter teacher labor market,
many states now permit schools to employ non-traditionally-licensed teachers.
Some believe that such teachers are not prepared to teach, while others feel
that alternative licensing may attract better candidates to teaching.
A recent study (Goldhaber & Brewer, 2000) comparing achievement levels of
high school students taught by teachers with different types of licensure found
that students taught by fully-licensed teachers tended to have higher levels of
performance in math and science on average. When measuring achievement growth,
though, there were few differences in achievement between students with teachers
who held standard state certification and those with emergency certification in
subjects. Their findings illustrate the importance of measuring student
achievement gains instead of levels.
A review of about 150 studies on teacher certification by the Abell
Foundation (Walsh, 2001) concluded that they did not show that certified
teachers are more effective than uncertified teachers, touching off a heated
debate about both the Foundation's findings and the quality of the studies
reviewed (see, for example, the rejoinder by Darling-Hammond, 2001). Additional
studies have also found that students of alternatively certified teachers do at
least as well as students whose teachers are fully state-certified (e.g.,
Miller, McKenna, & McKenna, 1996), while others found that that fully
licensed teachers are more effective (e.g., Hawk, Coble, & Swanson, 1985).
Thus, we believe that there is not a strong enough research base from which
to draw definitive conclusions about the value of state regulation of the
teacher labor market.
TEACHER YEARS OF EXPERIENCE
There is a wide range of
findings on the relationship between years of teaching experience and student
outcomes. Hanushek (1986) found that fewer than half of the 109 previous studies
on the estimated effects of teacher experience showed that experience had any
statistically significant effect on student achievement; of those, 33 studies
found that additional years of experience had a significant positive effect, but
seven found that more experience actually had a negative impact on student
achievement. Other studies show a stronger positive relationship between teacher
experience and student outcomes in some, but not all, cases they reviewed (e.g.,
Greenwald et al., 1996). Murnane (1995) suggests that the typical teaching
learning curve peaks in a teacher's first few years (estimated at year two for
reading and year three for math).
It is also plausible that a positive finding on experience actually results
from the tendency of more senior teachers to select higher-level classes with
higher achieving students (Hanushek, 1986). Thus we might reasonably infer that
the magnitude of the experience effect, should it exist, is not terribly large.
TEACHERS' ACADEMIC PROFICIENCY
Researchers have also
considered the relationship between student outcomes and teachers' general
academic proficiency. Measures such as performance on tests of verbal ability,
teacher licensure, or college entrance exams, and the selectivity of the
undergraduate institutions attended by teachers, are used as reflections of
intelligence and motivation. The research predicting student achievement that
includes measures of teacher academic proficiency is not plentiful, but it
consistently shows a positive relationship between the two (e.g., Strauss & Vogt, 2001). However, the studies were all conducted at the school or school
district level, as opposed to teacher or student level, casting some doubt on
them. Measurement issues and issues of causality leave unanswered the question
of whether higher-scoring teachers lead to higher-scoring students or whether
affluent districts, which tend to have higher achieving students, hire teachers
with higher scores.
A few studies conducted at the individual student level found that teachers
who attended more selective undergraduate colleges are more effective (Ehrenberg
& Brewer, 1994; Summers & Wolfe, 1975). Greenwald et al. (1996) found a
total of only nine studies that analyzed the effects of teacher academic
proficiency on student achievement, but positive relationships between teachers'
academic proficiency and student achievement were found in the overwhelming
majority of them. Thus, taken as a whole, the above literature suggests that
measures of teacher academic proficiency represent one of the best predictors of
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