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Most states grant new teachers a probationary license that must later be converted to an advanced or professional license. A probationary period is sound policy as it provides an opportunity to determine whether individuals merit professional licensure. However, very few states require any determination of teacher performance or effectiveness in deciding whether a teacher will advance from the probationary license. Instead, states generally require probationary teachers to fulfill a set of requirements to receive advanced certification. Thus, ending the probationary period is based on whether a checklist has been completed rather than on teacher performance and effectiveness.
Unfortunately, not only do most states fail to connect advanced certification to actual evidence of teacher effectiveness, but also the requirements teachers must most often meet are not even related to teacher effectiveness. The most common requirement for professional licensure is completion of additional coursework, often resulting in a master's degree. Requiring teachers to obtain additional training in their teaching area would be meaningful; however, the requirements are usually vague, allowing the teacher to fulfill coursework requirements from long menus that include areas having no connection or use to the teacher in the classroom. The research evidence on requiring a master's degree is quite conclusive: These degrees have not been shown to make teachers more effective. This is likely due in no small part to the fact that teachers generally do not attain master's degrees in their subject areas. According to the National Center for Educational Statistics, less than one-fourth of secondary teachers' master's degrees are in their subject area, and only seven percent of elementary teachers' master's degrees are in an academic subject.
In addition to their dubious value, these requirements may also serve as a disincentive to teacher retention. Talented probationary teachers may be unwilling to invest time and resources in more education coursework. Further, they may well pursue advanced degrees that facilitate leaving teaching.
Studies in the analysis include: Clotfelter, C. T., Ladd, H. F., & Vigdor, J. L. (2004) Teacher sorting, teacher shopping, and the assessment of teacher effectiveness. Clotfelter, C. T., Ladd, H. F., & Vigdor, J. L. (2006) Teacher-student matching and the assessment of teacher effectiveness. Retrieved May 20, 2009 from the National Bureau of Economic Research web site: http://www.nber.org/papers/w11936; Clotfelter, C. T. Ladd, H. F., & Vigdor, J. L. (2007) How and why do teacher credentials matter for student achievement? Ehrenberg, R. G., & Brewer, D. J. (1994) Do school and teacher characteristics matter? Evidence from high school and beyond. Economics of Education Review, 13, 1-17; Goldhaber, D., & Anthony, E. (2007) Can teacher quality be effectively assessed? National board certification as a signal of effective teaching. Review of Economics and Statistics, 89(1), 134-150; Goldhaber, D. D., & Brewer, D. J. (1997) Why don't schools and teachers seem to matter? Assessing the impact of unobservables on educational productivity. The Journal of Human Resources, 3, 505-523; Goldhaber, D. & Brewer, D. J. (2000) Does teacher certification matter? High school teacher certification status and student achievement. Educational and Evaluation and Policy Analysis, 22(2), 129-145; Hanushek, E. A., Kain, J. F., O'Brien, D. M., & Rivkin, S. G. (2005) The market for teacher quality. Retrieved May 20, 2009 from the National Bureau of Economic Research web site: http://www.nber.org/papers/w11154.pdf; Hanushek, E. A., Kain, J. F., & Rivkin, S. G. (1998) Teachers, schools, and academic achievement. Retrieved May 20, 2009 from the National Bureau of Economic Research web site:http://www.nber.org/papers/w6691.pdf; Harris, D. N., & Sass, T. R. (2006) Value-added models and the measurement of teacher quality. Harris, D. N., & Sass, T. R. (2007a) What makes for a good teacher and who can tell? Harris, D. N., & Sass, T. R. (2007b) Teacher training, teacher quality, and student achievement. Retrieved May 20, 2009 from the National Center for Analysis of Longitudinal Data in Education Research web site: http://www.caldercenter.org/PDF/1001059_Teacher_Training.pdf; Harris, D. N., & Sass, T. R. (2008) The effects of NBPTS-certified teachers on student achievement. National Center for Analysis of Longitudinal Data in Education Research; Jeptson, C. (2005) Teacher characteristics and student achievement: Evidence from teacher surveys. Journal of Urban Economics, 57,302-319; Monk, D. H. (1994) Subject area preparation of secondary mathematics and science teachers and student achievement. Economics of Educational Review, 13, 125-145; Riordan, J. (2006, April) Is there a relationship between No Child Left Behind indicators of teacher quality and the cognitive and social development of early elementary students? Paper presented at the annual meeting of the American Education Research Association, San Francisco, CA; Schneider, B. L. (1985) Further evidence of school effects. Journal of Educational Research, 78, 351-356.
For evidence on the lack of correlation between education coursework and teacher effectiveness, see M.B. Allen, "Eight Questions on Teacher Preparation: What Does the Research Say?" Education Commission of the States, (2003) at: http://www.ecs.org/html/educationIssues/teachingquality/tpreport/home/summary.pdf.