The highest-performing teachers appear to be underrepresented in economically disadvantaged middle schools—but the pattern is less pervasive at the elementary level, a new study concludes.
The study, conducted by Mathematica Policy Research for the U.S. Department of Education’s Institute of Education Sciences, analyzed value-added test-score data for more than 11,000 teachers from 10 districts. Researchers identified the top 20 percent of teachers, meaning those who got the greatest gains for students, in various subjects and grade spans.
The greatest disparities emerged for middle school math and reading. On average, 29 percent of the top middle school math teachers worked in the lowest-poverty schools, while 15 percent taught in the highest-poverty schools.
Across the eight districts with information on elementary schools, the trends were less clear-cut: On average, there was no statistically significant difference between the highest- and lowest-poverty schools’ proportions of top teachers. However, four of the eight districts had more top-performing teachers at low-poverty schools.
A version of this article appeared in the April 20, 2011 edition of Education Week as Teacher Distribution