Friday, July 13, 2012

Distribution of Teacher Quality Among Grades in Elementary Schools

The authors of this study, School Based Accountability and the Distribution of Teacher Quality Among Grades in Elementary Schools use North Carolina data to explore the extent to which teachers in the lower grades (K-2) of elementary school are lower quality than in the upper grades (3-5) and to examine the hypothesis that accountability contributes to a shortfall in teacher quality in the lower grades.

Their concern with early elementary grades arises from recent studies that have highlighted that children’s experiences in the early school years have long lasting effects on their outcomes, including college going and earnings.

Using licensure test scores as the primary measure of teacher quality, they find that concern about teacher quality in the lower elementary grades is warranted. Teachers in those grades are of lower quality than teachers in the upper grades. Moreover, they find that accountability, especially the form required by the federal No Child Left Behind legislation, increases the relative shortfalls of teacher quality in the lower grades and increases the tendency of schools to move teachers of higher quality from lower to upper grades and teachers of lower quality from upper to lower grades.

These findings support the conclusion that accountability pressure induces schools to pursue actions that work to the disadvantage of the children in the lower grades.

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