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Study Finds Disadvantaged Students Get State's Worst Teachers

Study Finds Disadvantaged Students Get State's Worst Teachers

A new study from labor economist Dan Goldhaber looked at three different ways to measure teacher quality and found that disadvantaged students in elementary, middle, and high schools in Washington were being taught by the state's worst teachers.

The teacher evaluation process has proved to, at times, be a flawed system that relies too heavily on student test scores and therefore does not give a fair portrayal of teacher quality. For this reason, Goldhaber and his colleagues looked at three different areas to assess teacher quality as opposed to evaluations alone.

"They looked not only at student test score gains, but also at years of teacher experience and teacher licensing exam scores. Their study, 'Uneven Playing Field? Assessing the Teacher Quality Gap Between Advantaged and Disadvantaged Students,' was published online in the journal Educational Researcher on June 29, 2015," said

The study revealed that not only are disadvantaged students being taught by the teachers who produce the smallest test score gains, but also by the teachers with the lowest scores on teaching license exams with the least experience in the field.

"It was true between districts. For example, a district with more black and Hispanic students had lower-ranking teachers than a district with more white and Asian students.

And it was true within districts. That is, a school with more low-income students had lower-ranking teachers than a school with a wealthier student body in the same district," the article said.

While Goldhalber's study looks only at the state of Washington, he believes similar findings would be found in states across the country. And because Goldhalber is the first to conduct such a study using the three different variables to evaluate teacher quality, there are likely to be critics behind the study's implications. According to the article:

To be sure, there will be critics who will dismiss the three measures in this study – student test scores, teacher experience and licensing scores – as imperfect measures of what makes a good teacher. And perhaps one could find an excellent novice, who scored poorly on the licensing exam, and whose students didn't improve as much on tests as one might expect. But there are probably not many of them.

"Teaching in poorer, minority schools is a tougher job, [Goldhabler] says. 'As teachers get more experience, they have more negotiating power, and they tend to go to more advantaged schools,' he explained.

His solution is simple: Pay teachers more to teach in tougher schools, and you'll lure better teachers to them," he said, according to the article. 

Read the full article here and comment with your thoughts below.

Article by Nicole Gorman, Education World Contributor


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