What makes some teachers better than others? Well, it depends on which research study you happen to be reading.
A new study from the nonprofit Rand Corporation, for example, examines data from the Los Angeles Unified School District over a five-year period and concludes that there is little correlation between teacher effectiveness (as measured by student test-score progress) and any particular qualifications or credentials. That includes years of experience, education level attained, or licensure test scores. Even failing a licensure exam showed no “statistically significant link” to a teacher’s future effectiveness.
On the other hand, a newly published study by Duke University researcher Helen F. Ladd cross-checks North Carolina high school students’ scores on required end-of-course exams against their teachers’ records and finds that—hold on a second—teachers’ credentials matter quite a bit. Test-score boosts, this study finds, are associated with everything from whether a teacher has a master’s to where he or she went to college to how well he or she was scored on subject-area certification tests.
Glad that’s all cleared up. … Moral of the story: When it comes to improving teacher quality, make sure you check more than one source.
A version of this article appeared in the October 12, 2010 edition of Teacher PD Sourcebook