Teacher Experience and Preparation Led to Stronger Black and Hispanic Achievement, Study Says

By Christina A. Samuels — May 16, 2019 1 min read
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Employing experienced and fully-credentialed teachers is one of the major factors contributing to California school districts that are producing higher-than-expected academic achievement among their Hispanic, black, and white students, says a new report from the Learning Policy Institute.

In the report California’s Positive Outliers: Districts Beating the Odds, released Thursday, the Palo Alto-based think tank identified California school systems where students were outperforming on state tests their peers in other school districts who come from families with similar racial/ethnic backgrounds, income, and education levels. The study was limited to 435 districts that had at least 200 white students and 200 black or Hispanic students.

Teacher certification was strongly associated with achievement for students of all races and ethnicities. The higher the percentage of teachers in a district working under emergency permits, waivers or intern credentials, the lower the average achievement for all students‐with students of color facing a larger negative impact than white students. A teacher’s length of time in the profession was also positively associated with achievement for black and Hispanic students.

Total per-pupil expenditures or teacher salaries didn’t make a statistically significant impact on student achievement in this analysis, but the report did note that salary levels are often related to teacher qualifications, which did have an impact on student achievement.

Linda Darling-Hammond, the president and CEO of the Learning Policy Institute and a co-author of the study, said the findings support the idea that teacher churn has a negative impact, even though going into low-performing schools and making sweeping staff changes has been in vogue as a reform initiative.

That may be necessary in some cases, Darling-Hammond said, but “churn as a strategy is really not the best strategy, based on the data we have here.”

Holding on to teachers, rather, seems to be a winning tactic.

“We recognize that it’s not easy for all districts, but one of the big things that determine shortages is how well you keep the teachers that you’ve hired,” Darling-Hammond said. “Supporting [teachers,] mentoring, making sure they get what they need to succeed, involving them in decisionmaking—those districts do end up doing better in the long run.”

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A version of this news article first appeared in the District Dossier blog.