Los Angeles has an unusually wide spread in the relative effectiveness of its teachers, according to an analysis released last month by the Strategic Data Project, an initiative housed at the Center for Education Policy Research at Harvard University.
The study looks primarily at mathematics teachers in the district who were teaching in grades 3-8 from the 2004-05 to the 2010-11 school years, and uses a student test-score growth measure to arrive at the calculations.
Among the findings:
• The difference in performance between top- and bottom-performing elementary math teachers was one-quarter of a standard deviation, or nearly eight months of learning, a figure the report characterizes as larger than in other districts that have been studied.
• Teachers who entered the district through Teach For America or the district’s career-ladder program, which helps paraprofessionals obtain full teaching positions, were slightly better on average than other teachers in math, giving students a boost of roughly one to two months of learning. But the career-ladder teachers were much more likely than those in TFA to stay in the district.
• Extended substitutes were generally more effective than new hires. The report notes that such teachers are often former district teachers and encourages more study of this population.
• Novice and early-career teachers were disproportionately assigned to lower-achieving students.
• Over his or her first five years in the district, the average math teacher improves enough to be able to give students the equivalent of three additional months of math instruction relative to the teacher’s initial performance.
Credentials generally were not linked to performance, but teachers with certification from the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards tended to outperform others by the equivalent of one to two months. It’s not clear, though, whether those gains are a function of the certification process itself, or of the teachers who elect to become board-certified.
A version of this article appeared in the December 05, 2012 edition of Education Week as Analysis Finds Wide Variation In Effectiveness of L.A. Teachers