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Monday, April 18, 2005

Study: Teaching Credential Matters

Study: Teaching Credential Matters
by Jill Tucker, STAFF WRITER
4/16/2005


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.

4 comments:

  1. As a "back-door" teacher I can relate somewhat to those that see non-traditional teaching candidates as a possible solution to teacher shortages. My career began on a deficiency plan that allowed me to teach with a BA, as long as I made up for my deficiency in education classes. I combined these certfication classes with a Masters in Curriculum and Instruction and killed two birds with one stone. From what I understand, it has gotten harder to do this under NCLB.
    After having gone through the whole process, I see why it is important to have fully certified teachers in our classrooms. While I originally thought that an interest in teaching and content knowledge was "good enough", I did not realize what I was missing until I landed my first full time teaching gig and was so far in over my head that I am suprised I stuck with it.
    As an education graduate student and a teacher I fully support university based teacher certification programs as being the best route to certfication. A lot needs to be done to better prepare teachers for the modern, multicultural classroom, but experience has taught me the value of certification/degree programs are unparalled as far as teacher certification programs go. It doesn't matter if a student is preparing to teach in public or private schools, or what level of student they plan to teach, certification is a really good idea.

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  2. As a "back-door" teacher I can relate somewhat to those that see non-traditional teaching candidates as a possible solution to teacher shortages. My career began on a deficiency plan that allowed me to teach with a BA, as long as I made up for my deficiency in education classes. I combined these certfication classes with a Masters in Curriculum and Instruction and killed two birds with one stone. From what I understand, it has gotten harder to do this under NCLB.
    After having gone through the whole process, I see why it is important to have fully certified teachers in our classrooms. While I originally thought that an interest in teaching and content knowledge was "good enough", I did not realize what I was missing until I landed my first full time teaching gig and was so far in over my head that I am suprised I stuck with it.
    As an education graduate student and a teacher I fully support university based teacher certification programs as being the best route to certfication. A lot needs to be done to better prepare teachers for the modern, multicultural classroom, but experience has taught me the value of certification/degree programs are unparalled as far as teacher certification programs go. It doesn't matter if a student is preparing to teach in public or private schools, or what level of student they plan to teach, certification is a really good idea.

    ReplyDelete
  3. I have to agree--I got my teacher training at UT-Dallas, and altough it was a tough lot at the time (I was waiting tables until 2:00 in the morning to support my studies) I do not regret going through a "traditional" program. I was part of a post-bac program, so there might have been some coursework I missed out on, but it certainly felt comprehensive at the time.

    In the summer of 2002, I trained teachers at the summer institute for Teach for America--an experience that led to my decision to return to school in pursuit of a Ph.D. That's the good news. The bad news is that while we worked with extremely capable, engaged, and hard-working TFA corp members to get them up to speed and ready to enter the classroom in the fall, we only had them in the classrooms for a month. If you consider that when we broke it down (for this was Summer School), each corp member spent roughly an hour and a half with students each day of the four week period. My thinking: "there is NO WAY these people are going to be equipped to work in schools, come this fall!"

    Most of my corp members survived their experience, but I have to wonder if we weren't all guilty of providing school districts with a bandaid to cover the gaping wound left from teacher attrition, anomie, and low expectations for student performance. I do not mean to bash the Teach for America program. It exists because our country continues to turn its back on education--expecting miraculous performance without considering the problems exacerbating student (and teacher, school, etc.) success. It exists because there are schools that need anyone--hopefully a person who truly cares about learning and kids--willing to walk in the doorway.

    I have known some GREAT Teach for America teachers, but I also saw some idealistic liberal arts grads with a huge ethic of care, but no practical skills working with students in the classroom. I find this posting especially interesting in light of the Department of Ed's report a couple of years back that heralded the Teach for America organization as a bastion of "highly qualified teachers." Perhaps they didn't fully engage with the relevant data on student performance? Nah. That would never happen...

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  4. I am glad that someone is acknowledging that teaching is a profession--no more "those who can, do; those who can't, teach" philosophy. I have never understood how they can lower the standards of becoming a teacher while at the same time raise the standards for what teachers are supposed to achieve with their students.

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