Study: Teaching Credential Matters
by Jill Tucker, STAFF WRITER
It seems obvious.
Teachers who formally learn how to teach are better for kids than those who don't — was the conclusion reached by an extensive Stanford University study released Friday.
While the concept might seem obvious, the need for a formal teaching credential in the classroom has been hotly debated in recent years.
In 2002, then U.S. Secretary of Education Rod Paige argued for changes in teacher certification with an emphasis on verbal ability and content knowledge rather than formal training at a university education program.
Stanford professor of education Linda Darling-Hammond, who led the study, said her research settles that debate.
"Unequivocally, certified teachers are more effective in promoting student learning," she said from Montreal, where she was presenting the research.
The study looked at 271,015 students and 15,344 teachers in Houston schools from 1995 to 2002 — and compared performance on three standardized tests.
Teachers with less than a full teaching credential — including those in the Teach for America program — saw "negative effects on student achievement," according to the study.
Darling-Hammond said there is no reason to expect a different result in California.
In fact, she said, the requirements for obtaining a California teaching credential are more rigorous than in Texas. That means the disparity in student achievement depending on teacher qualifications could be even greater, she added.
In California, schools with greater populations of low-income or minority students are more likely to have teachers who don't have a full credential. Many of those schools score at the bottom on state standardized tests. That means those students are more likely to be taught by interns studying for a credential, those with emergency permits, substitutes or participants in the Teach for America program.
Teach for America teachers — typically recent graduates from some of the best universities in the nation — have been touted as examples of good teachers without credentials.
"The young people who go into it are often quite noble and hardworking," Darling-Hammond said. "And they care and they want to do well."
But the reality is, their students perform about the same as those with other uncertified teachers, according to the Stanford research. In short, Darling-Hammond said, we need to get credentialed teachers into classrooms. All classrooms.
She suggested reinstating programs such as California's short-lived Governor's Fellowships, which gave a $20,000 education grant to those who earned a teaching credential and then worked in a low-performing school.
The program, under then Gov. Gray Davis lasted only a couple of years before it was pulled for lack of funds.
The fellowships and other teacher recruitment programs cost the state about $50 million at their peak — a small investment that was making a difference, Darling-Hammond said. "There are some kids who get those untrained and inexperienced teachers year after year," she added.