TQB: Teacher Quality Bulletin

Following the path from teacher prep to student achievement

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Over the years, there have been a gazillion studies examining the relative merit of different pathways into the teaching profession. Almost all come up short, often because the studies do not clearly define the type of pathway being analyzed (i.e., just what does it mean to be alternatively certified?)

A new study from Gary T. Henry and his colleagues at Vanderbilt does not disappoint, breaking down  the definitions of assorted pathways into more meaningful categories as well as examining the results of only new teachers (those with less than three years of experience). After all, should we really judge a preparation program by the teachers who graduated from Ol' State U. in 1980 or by those who graduated in 2014?

Henry et al. disaggregate teaching pathways into multiple distinct categories: out of state, in state, graduate, undergraduate, public, private, Teach For America and lateral entry (North Carolina's own alternative entry).

As always, the researchers find more variation within the groups than across; there are some notable differences in this study from what previous research has found.

There is some limited evidence of a "home team" advantage for specific teachers; teachers who were prepared in-state were more effective than those from out-of-state programs in three of the eight subjects tested. Additionally, teachers prepared in private institutions were no better than those from public institutions, a finding we didn't find surprising given that we haven't found a discernible difference between the two in the Teacher Prep Review.

One takeaway consistent with other studies' findings: TFA comes out looking great. Students instructed by TFAcorps members annually gain approximately 18 days of additional learning in elementary math, 11 days in elementary reading and an astounding 73 days in middle grade math.

While there aren't many TFA corps members in North Carolina, other alternatively trained teachers (referred to as "lateral entry") have a much harder time posting gains. Findings conclude they are less effective (especially in STEM subjects) or, at best, average.

Here's a finding we've never seen before: in both middle grade math and reading, teachers trained in graduate school aren't as effective as teachers trained as undergraduates— though they do better in high school science. This needs more research to figure out if those different outcomes are due to the focus of masters' degrees, if they were content specific, or in education.