Do Low-Income Students Have Equal Access to the Highest-Performing Teachers?

Conducted by Mathematica, this Institute of
Education Sciences (IES) brief sheds needed light on a controversial
education-policy topic: The teacher-quality gap. While it is well known that
disadvantaged youngsters have teachers with less experience and fewer
credentials, there is precious little evidence showing that these
easy-to-measure attributes correlate with teacher effectiveness. So IES decided
to look at effectiveness itself. Through an analysis of value-added data for
over 11,000 teachers in ten large districts, analysts found that, compared with
their well-off peers, low-income middle
had dramatically less access to the highest-performing teachers
(defined as the top 20 percent of faculties, based on average student
performance across multiple years, within each subject or grade level). But
here’s a head scratcher: There was no significant difference in access at the elementary level. Parsing data out by
district, researchers unearthed still more interesting findings. For example,
one district saw an abundance of the highest-quality teachers in their
low-income elementary schools (35 percent in the poorest quintile compared to
12 percent in the wealthiest). Unfortunately, the brief stops short of diving
into the policies and practices that might have helped districts like this one
close (or reverse) the teacher-effectiveness gap. One hopes a part II is on the

Click to play

Click to listen to commentary on the IES brief from the Education Gadfly Show podcast


Glazerman and Jeffrey Max, “Do Low-Income
Students Have Equal Access to the Highest-Performing Teachers?
,” (Washington, D.C.: National Center for
Education Evaluation and Regional Assistance, April 2011).

Chris Irvine
Chris Irvine is a Policy and Operations Associate at the Thomas B. Fordham Institute