Federal

Teacher Quality Found Improving in Chicago Schools

By Vaishali Honawar — June 25, 2008 3 min read

Teacher quality in disadvantaged Chicago schools has improved over this decade, largely because the district has focused on hiring inexperienced teachers with stronger academic backgrounds, a report released today finds.

The authors of the study from the Illinois Education Research council say their findings challenge some conventional wisdom on how best to bolster teacher quality. For instance, they conclude that inexperienced teachers are not inherently bad for schools.

“Recent inexperienced teachers are bringing with them stronger academic capital—a factor whose positive effect on student performance tends to counter the negative impact of teacher inexperience,” the report says.

The report looks at changes in the academic backgrounds of teachers around the state, and their experience levels, from 2001 to 2006. Researchers found that while the entire state made progress in hiring teachers with stronger academic backgrounds, some of the largest gains were in Chicago, where the district is hiring inexperienced teachers with higher ACT scores and from somewhat more competitive teacher-preparation programs.

“What we are seeing generally in the state is a leveling up of the teacher academic capital, with gains being made in Chicago to a greater extent and to a smaller extent in other districts,” said Jennifer B. Presley, one of the report’s authors and the founding director of the research council, based at Southern Illinois University in Edwardsville.

Ms. Presley and her co-authors add, however, that despite the improvements, Chicago still has a long way to go: Schools serving minority and low-income students in the city rated lower in teacher quality than their counterparts in the rest of the state.

Differing Strategies

A study published last month of the nation’s largest district, New York City, found an improvement in teacher quality at high-poverty schools there, and a reduction in the teacher-qualification gap between high- and low-poverty schools. Although the authors of the New York City study saw a significant role played by the alternative teacher-preparation routes Teaching Fellows and Teach For America because they hire teachers with stronger academic credentials, the Illinois researchers did not see such a link.

“TFA did not begin recruiting new teachers to Chicago until 2000, and TFA teachers currently constitute only 4 to 5 percent of the district’s inexperienced teachers each year,” the Illinois report says. The New Teacher Project, which runs the Teaching Fellows program, only began operating in Chicago in 2007—after the period covered by the study.

The authors do cite other changes over the six-year period that could have influenced the improvements, including the federal No Child Left Behind Act, which required all core-subject teachers to become highly qualified by June 2007, and the adoption by Illinois lawmakers of an improved version of its basic-skills test for entering teachers. Chicago, specifically, also launched an initiative to attract, develop, and retain teachers.

Instead of looking at individual teacher characteristics, as the New York study did, the Illinois researchers examined a school-level measure of teacher quality based on five teacher attributes: the mean ACT composite scores of teachers at the school, the mean ACT English score, the percentage of teachers at the school who failed the basic-skills entrance test at the first attempt, the percentage of teachers who were provisionally or emergency certified, and the competitiveness ranking of the teacher-preparation programs attended by the school’s teachers. The researchers looked separately at teacher experience, they said, to “better analyze these two distinct components of teacher quality ... and their independent effects on student achievement.”

The improvement in Chicago’s teacher quality occurred simultaneously with a surge in applications for teaching jobs in the district, from about 2.5 candidates for each opening in 2002 to 10 candidates per opening in 2006.

“My own personal opinion is in the past 10 years, ... there’s an explicit agenda [in Chicago] for improving schools, and young people want to be part of that,” Ms. Presley said about the trend.

The report calls on districts to provide strong supports to keep new, academically talented teachers in the classroom. Researchers say they found, for example, that teachers with the highest ACT scores and degrees from the most competitive institutions are less likely to remain teaching in the lowest-performing schools. To stem this loss, the authors recommend effective mentoring and induction support for new teachers and improving the school climate.

Events

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.
Sponsor
Mathematics Webinar
Building Equitable Systems: Moving Math From Gatekeeper to Opportunity Gateway
The importance of disrupting traditional American math practices and adopting high-quality math curriculum continues to be essential for changing the trajectory of historically under-resourced schools. Building systems around high-quality math curriculum also is necessary to
Content provided by Partnership for L.A. Schools
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.
Sponsor
Student Well-Being Webinar
Measuring & Supporting Student Well-Being: A Researcher and District Leader Roundtable
Students’ social-emotional well-being matters. The positive and negative emotions students feel are essential characteristics of their psychology, indicators of their well-being, and mediators of their success in school and life. Supportive relationships with peers, school
Content provided by Panorama Education
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.
Sponsor
School & District Management Webinar
Making Digital Literacy a Priority: An Administrator’s Perspective
Join us as we delve into the efforts of our panelists and their initiatives to make digital skills a “must have” for their district. We’ll discuss with district leadership how they have kept digital literacy
Content provided by Learning.com

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Federal Miguel Cardona: Schools Must Work to Win Trust of Families of Color as They Reopen
As Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona announced new school reopening resources, he encouraged a focus on equity and student engagement.
4 min read
Education Secretary nominee Miguel Cardona testifies before the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions committee during his confirmation hearing Feb. 3, 2021.
Now-U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona testifies before the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions committee during his confirmation hearing in February.
Susan Walsh/AP
Federal CDC: Nearly 80 Percent of K-12, Child-Care Workers Have Had at Least One COVID-19 Shot
About four out of five teachers, school staffers, and child-care workers had first COVID-19 vaccine doses by the end of March, CDC says.
2 min read
John Battle High School teacher Jennifer Daniel receives her COVID-19 vaccine on Jan. 11, 2021. Teachers received their first vaccine during an all-day event at the Virginia Highlands Higher Education Center in Abingdon, Va.
John Battle High School teacher Jennifer Daniel receives her COVID-19 vaccine on Jan. 11at the Virginia Highlands Higher Education Center in Abingdon, Va.
David Crigger/Bristol Herald Courier via AP
Federal Ed. Dept. to Review Title IX Rules on Sexual Assault, Gender Equity, LGBTQ Rights
The review could reopen a Trump-era debate on sexual assault in schools, and it could spark legal discord over transgender student rights.
4 min read
Symbols of gender.
iStock/Getty
Federal Q&A EdWeek Q&A: Miguel Cardona Talks Summer Learning, Mental Health, and State Tests
In an interview after a school reopening summit, the education secretary also addressed teachers' union concerns about CDC guidance.
10 min read
Education Secretary Miguel Cardona speaks during a press briefing at the White House on March 17, 2021.
U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona speaks during a press briefing at the White House on March 17.
Andrew Harnik/AP