Find your next job fast at the Jan. 28 Virtual Career Fair. Register now.
Education Opinion

The New Teacher-Old Teacher Debate

By Walt Gardner — August 23, 2013 1 min read

In most professions, experience is considered the most important factor in predicting effectiveness. But a new study by the National Bureau of Economic Research finds that is not the case in teaching (“An Exit Strategy for Bad Teachers,” The Wall Street Journal, Aug. 22). Specifically, newer teachers “did not reduce test scores and instead led to increased student achievement in most cases.”

The study will be eagerly cited as evidence that if only the teaching profession could be stripped of older teachers, then student learning would soar. This is not a new argument. It was made not too long ago by Joel Klein, former chancellor of New York City’s schools (“Why Teacher Pensions Don’t Work,” The Wall Street Journal, Jan. 10, 2011). According to Klein, defined-benefit pensions are much too back-loaded. Teachers who want to receive their maximum lifetime pensions typically have to put in 25 or 30 years. As a result, too many older teachers are merely timeservers. When they are allowed to remain in the classroom, students are shortchanged.

I don’t doubt that some older teachers are burned out or that some newer teachers are hotshots. But these observations are not peculiar to teaching. Moreover, evaluating teachers based on standardized test scores, which is what the National Bureau of Economic Research study did, is unconvincing. No matter what psychometricians explain about the pitfalls of this practice, it continues to be accepted by too many as valid. Can some new teachers boost test scores more than some experienced teachers? Absolutely. But is that the sum and substance of educational quality? Not in my book.

Supporters of Teach for America will point to the new study as evidence that they were right all along. All it takes to be effective in the classroom is energy and enthusiasm. It’s a pipe dream, but it will appeal to critics of public education in this country.

The opinions expressed in Walt Gardner’s Reality Check are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.


Teaching Live Online Discussion A Seat at the Table With Education Week: How Educators Can Respond to a Post-Truth Era
How do educators break through the noise of disinformation to teach lessons grounded in objective truth? Join to find out.
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
School & District Management Webinar
The 4 Biggest Challenges of MTSS During Remote Learning: How Districts Are Adapting
Leaders share ways they have overcome the biggest obstacles of adapting a MTSS or RTI framework in a hybrid or remote learning environment.
Content provided by Panorama Education
Student Well-Being Online Summit Keeping Students and Teachers Motivated and Engaged
Join experts to learn how to address teacher morale, identify students with low engagement, and share what is working in remote learning.

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Join us for our NBOE 2021 Winter Teacher Virtual Interview Fair!
Newark, New Jersey
Newark Public Schools
Special Education Teacher
Chicago, Illinois
JCFS Chicago
Assistant Director of Technical Solutions
Working from home
EdGems Math LLC

Read Next

Education Briefly Stated Briefly Stated: January 13, 2021
Here's a look at some recent Education Week articles you may have missed.
8 min read
Education Obituary In Memory of Michele Molnar, EdWeek Market Brief Writer and Editor
EdWeek Market Brief Associate Editor Michele Molnar, who was instrumental in launching the publication, succumbed to cancer.
5 min read
Education Briefly Stated Briefly Stated: December 9, 2020
Here's a look at some recent Education Week articles you may have missed.
8 min read
Education Briefly Stated Briefly Stated: Stories You May Have Missed
A collection of articles from the previous week that you may have missed.
8 min read