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The reason for probationary licensure should be to determine teacher effectiveness.
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.
Most state requirements for achieving professional certification have not been shown to affect teacher 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 7 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.
Licensure Advancement: Supporting Research
For a meta-analysis of the research on the relationship between advanced degrees and teacher effectiveness, see M. Ozdemir and W. Stevenson, "The Impact of Teachers' Advanced Degrees on Student Learning" which has been published as an appendix in Arizona's Race to the Top: What Will It Take to Compete? (NCTQ, 2009).
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, which is the previous draft of the current paper entitled C. Clotfelter, H. Ladd, and J. Vigdor, Teacher-student matching and the assessment of teacher effectiveness, January 2006 from the National Bureau of Economic Research, Working Paper No. 11936, web site: http://www.nber.org/papers/w11936; C. Clotfelter, H. Ladd, and J. Vigdor, How and why do teacher credentials matter for student achievement?, January 2007 from the NBER, Working Paper 12828, web site: http://www.nber.org/papers/w12828. R. Ehrenberg and D. Brewer, Do school and teacher characteristics matter? Evidence from high school and beyond. Economics of Education Review, Volume 13, No. 1, March 1994, pp. 1-17; D. Goldhaber and E. Anthony, Can teacher quality be effectively assessed? National board certification as a signal of effective teaching. Review of Economics and Statistics, Volume 89, No, 1, February 2007, pp. 134-150; D. Goldhaber and D. Brewer, Why don't schools and teachers seem to matter? Assessing the impact of unobservables on educational productivity. The Journal of Human Resources, Volume 32, No. 3, Summer 1997, pp. 505-523; D. Goldhaber and D. Brewer, Does teacher certification matter? High school teacher certification status and student achievement. Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis, Volume 22, No. 2, June 20, 2000, pp. 129-145; E. Hanushek, J. Kain, D. O'Brien, and S. Rivkin, (2005) The market for teacher quality. Retrieved February 2005 from the National Bureau of Economic Research, Working Paper No. 11154 from web site: http://www.nber.org/papers/w11154.pdf; E. Hanushek, J. Kain, and S. Rivkin, Teachers, schools, and academic achievement. Retrieved August 1998 from the National Bureau of Economic Research, Working Paper 6691 from web site: http://www.nber.org/papers/w6691.pdf; D. Harris and T. Sass, Value-added models and the measurement of teacher quality. Unpublished paper, Florida State University; D. Harris and T. Sass, What makes for a good teacher and who can tell?, Calder Institute, September 2009, Working Paper 30; Harris, D. and T. Sass, Teacher training, teacher quality, and student achievement; Calder Institute, March 2007, Working Paper 3; D. Harris and T. Sass, The effects of NBPTS-certified teachers on student achievement, Calder Institute, March 2007, Working Paper No. 4; C. Jepsen, Teacher characteristics and student achievement: Evidence from teacher surveys. Journal of Urban Economics, Volume 57, No. 2, March 2005, pp. 302-319; D. Monk, Subject area preparation of secondary mathematics and science teachers and student achievement. Economics of Education Review, Volume 13, No. 2, June 1994, pp. 125-145; J. Riordan, Is There a Relationship Between No Child Left Behind Indicators of Teacher Quality and The Cognitive and Social Development of Early Elementary Students? April 8, 2006, Paper presented at the annual meeting of the American Education Research Association, San Francisco, CA; B. Schneider, Further evidence of school effects, Journal of Educational Research, Volume 78, No. 6, Jul.-Aug., 1985, pp. 351-356.
For evidence on the lack of correlation between education coursework and teacher effectiveness, see M. 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.