The test scores of students taught by teachers with probationary or emergency credentials improved just as much on some national standardized exams given in the early 1990s as those of their peers with fully certified teachers, a study by two think tanks shows.
The study, conducted by the Urban Institute and the RAND Corp., based in Washington and Santa Monica, Calif., respectively, analyzed the scores of more than 6,000 public school 10th and 12th graders who took science and mathematics exams as part of the National Education Longitudinal Study in 1990 and 1992. NELS is run by the U.S. Department of Education.
The researchers sought correlations between the students’ scores and their teachers’ certification status, said Dan D. Goldhaber, one of the study’s two authors and a senior research associate for the Urban Institute. The sample included more than 3,400 teachers.
“The contributions of a teacher who had either probationary or emergency credentials looked to be roughly comparable to teachers who are fully certified,” Mr. Goldhaber said.
But whether a teacher was teaching in his or her area of certification did make a difference, he added. The test-score gains by students who were taught by teachers working in their specialties were higher than those taught by teachers working outside their specialties.
Some education experts argue that alternative-certification programs can help relieve teacher shortages; others warn that such programs don’t do an adequate job of preparing people to work in a classroom.
Mr. Goldhaber warned, however, that the research, published in the summer 2000 issue of Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis, should not be applied to today’s job market.
Currently, demand for teachers with probationary and emergency licenses is significantly higher than in the early 1990s, he said. That means principals are forced to hire a majority of those in the hiring pool, not just the very best applicants.
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