Thursday, October 27, 2016

Low-income students’ access to effective teachers and teacher mobility

There are, on average, small differences in the effectiveness of teachers of high- and low-income students, according to a new study that looked at five years of data from 26 districts across the country. However, in three of the districts, there is meaningful inequity, where providing equal access to effective teachers over a five year period would narrow the math achievement gap.

The Institute of Education Sciences released a new report today (Oct. 27) entitled Do Low Income Students Have Access to Effective Teachers? Evidence from 26 Districts. The report from the National Center for Education Evaluation and Regional Assistance (NCEE) examines whether low-income students are taught by less effective teachers than high-income students, and if so, whether reducing inequity would close the student achievement gap. It also describes how the hiring of teachers and their subsequent movement in and out of schools could affect low-income students’ access to effective teachers.

The study includes fourth- to eighth-grade teachers over five school years (2008-2009 to 2012-2013) in 26 school districts across the country. Teacher effectiveness is measured using a statistical approach that estimates a teacher’s contribution to student learning controlling for students’ prior achievement and other characteristics. Key findings include:

•    There are small differences in the effectiveness of teachers of high- and low-income students, on average. The average teacher of a low-income student is just below the 50th percentile of effectiveness, while the average teacher of a high-income student is at the 51st percentile. Providing low-income students with equally effective teachers would not substantively reduce the achievement gap;

•    Teacher hiring patterns are consistent with small inequities. High-poverty schools have more new hires than low-poverty schools, but this difference is likely to have only a small influence on equity because (1) relatively few teachers are new hires (11 percent of teachers in high-poverty schools and 5 percent in low-poverty schools), and (2) new hire performance improves quickly. On average, new hires become as effective as the average teacher after one year.

•    Teacher transfer patterns are also consistent with small inequities. Teachers who transfer to schools in a higher poverty category are less effective than the average teacher (43rd percentile). Teachers who transfer to schools in a lower poverty category are nearly as effective (48th percentile). These patterns likely have a small influence on equity since just under 4 percent of all teachers transfer across poverty categories.

•    Teacher attrition patterns do not contribute to inequity. Teachers who leave a district are less effective (44th percentile) than the average teacher and more teachers leave high-poverty schools than low-poverty schools (10 percent versus 7 percent, respectively).

•    In a subset of the study districts, there is meaningful inequity in teacher effectiveness in math. In three of the 26 study districts, providing low-income students with equally effective teachers over a five year period would reduce the math achievement gap by at least a tenth of a standard deviation of student achievement, the equivalent of about 4 percentile points.

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