What Does Research Say on What Counts as a Quality Teacher?
Jennifer King Rice, Ph.D. examined empirical research on U.S. public school teacher qualities and performance found in peer-reviewed journals over the past three decades. She found a variety of outcomes, some conflicting; however, a few stood out. The following is a summary of her findings synthesized from her recent publication, Teacher Quality: Understanding the Effectiveness of Teacher Attributes (pp. v-vi), 2003, Washington, DC: Economic Policy Institute.
- Experience can make a difference in teacher effectiveness; specifically, the "learning by doing" effect is most obvious in the early years of teaching.
Teacher preparation programs and degrees
- The selectivity or prestige of the college a teacher attended can impact student achievement, particularly for middle and high school students. (This may partially reflect the teacher's ability to think and acquire knowledge.)
- Teachers with advanced degrees in math and science are more likely to contribute to increased high school math and science achievement.
- The effect of advanced degrees at the elementary level is mixed.
- Teachers certified in mathematics can enhance high school mathematics achievement.
- Teachers with emergency or alternative-route certification, as compared to teachers who acquire standard certification, show little difference in their students' math or science performance.
- Teacher coursework in both the subject area taught and pedagogy contributes to positive education outcomes.
- Pedagogical coursework seems to contribute to teacher effectiveness at all grade levels, particularly when coupled with content knowledge.
- The importance of content coursework is most pronounced at the high school level.
- Student-teaching field experience can have a positive effect for new teachers in terms of better understanding the profession and reduced anxiety.
Teachers' own test scores
- National Teachers Examination and other state-mandated tests of basic skills and/or teaching abilities are not necessarily consistent predictors of teacher performance.
- Tests that assess teacher literacy or verbal ability are related to higher student achievement.
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