School & District Management

What Does It Mean to Be Experienced at Teaching?

By Debra Viadero — June 01, 2009 1 min read

One of the few findings in education research on which everyone seems to agree is that when it comes to teacher quality, experience counts. Teachers who’ve been on the job at least three years tend, on average, to spur bigger learning gains among students than their colleagues fresh out of education school.

But, as blogger Aaron Pallas points out in a post last Friday for Gotham Schools, there’s a difference between years of experience in the classroom and experience teaching a particular grade or subject. To illustrate his point, Pallas breaks down data on 2,800 5th grade teachers in New York City’s public schools. He shows that although only 7 percent of those teachers are in their first year of teaching, 27 percent are teaching 1st grade for the first time.

I’m curious about the implications here. Most of the research that I’ve seen on teacher effectiveness focuses on how many years teachers have been on the job and not on how long they’ve been teaching math or Chinese or 1st grade. Does anyone know of any studies that look at teachers’ performance in their first year of teaching a new grade level or content area? And how does it compare with the effectiveness of teachers who are completely new to the profession? If you’ve got an inkling, let me know, and we can share the results here with readers.

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A version of this news article first appeared in the Inside School Research blog.