It's Easier to Pick a Good Teacher than to Train One: Familiar and New Results on the Correlates of Teacher Effectiveness

How did good teachers become
good teachers? Matthew M. Chingos and Paul E. Peterson seek to answer this
question in their latest study, wherein they examined several traditional
strategies for teachers to increase their effectiveness, such as pursuing
advanced degrees, on-the-job training, etc. to determine which methods were
successful. To get at this, they investigated student achievement data from all
of Florida’s fourth and eighth graders who took state assessments from
2002-2009, to discern which teachers “added value” (i.e. produced gains in
student achievement), and what enabled teachers to do so. Interestingly, none
of the methods studied significantly improved teacher quality. The most salient
findings include:

  • Advanced degrees were not an indicator of
    teacher effectiveness, and obtaining such degrees did not make a teacher
    significantly more effective than she was before.
  • No Florida public university offers a teacher
    preparation program that significantly enhanced the effectiveness of students
    completing the program.
  • In the first one to five years of teaching,
    on-the-job training (years served) increased teacher effectiveness, but after
    five years there was no noticeable increase. In fact, effectiveness may
    decrease as a teacher’s career progresses.

Considering the sharp debate
surrounding seniority-based layoffs, as well as Ohio’s fiscal problems
(master’s degree pay raises for teachers cost over $400 million annually),
state lawmakers would do well to take note of the results of this study. SB 5
is a step in the right direction on this front as it reduces emphasis on
traditional notions of effectiveness such as credentials, years of service,
etc. Further, although Chingos and Peterson examined only public university
teacher training programs in Florida, a recent Fordham study
shows that teacher training programs across the country, including in Ohio, do
not adequately equip teachers for their profession. Ohio needs to ensure that
teacher training programs at its public universities make a positive difference
in the effectiveness of the teachers they graduate.

An article about this study also appeared
in Education Next. The full text of
the study is available here,
and another version of it was published
in the Economics of Education Review.

Easier to Pick a Good Teacher than to Train One:
Familiar and New Results on the Correlates of Teacher Effectiveness

Matthew M. Chingos
and Paul E. Peterson
Program on Education
Policy and Governance (Harvard Kennedy School)
December 2010