As part of a new program crafted by the School District of Philadelphia and the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers certain educators will be formally observed this year (with the potential outcome of dismissal) and others will be responsible for creating and monitoring Professional Development Plans (PDPs). I happen to be a lucky member of the latter category.
To that end I decided to include the requirement of reading one research article on education per week with analysis to be posted here. To be honest, I'm already behind by one week but I'm doing my best to catch up with my new role as Technology Teacher Leader in the school so I've been busy.
With all that in mind, I read a paper entitled "What Does Certification Tell Us About Teacher Effectiveness." The authors use data from the New York City public school system to analyze the value-added scores of teachers from various backgrounds, including traditional certification, NY Teacher Fellows, and Teach for America corps members. Overall, they find there to be very little difference between the groups in terms of their effect on student gains, with the exception that TFA teachers leave the classroom in astonishingly large numbers after their two year commitment is completed.
A few things I learned by reading this article:
- In the 1999-2000 school year, 60 percent of all new teachers in New York City were uncertified. This figure alone is enough to rethink the entirely of education in that city. The NY Teacher Fellows program was a response to that statistic - created to bring more people in through alternative avenues. That being said, they still only spend 7 weeks in a summer program in preparation for the year.
- According to the Value-Added Model (VAM) used, TFA teachers are 0.02 standard deviations higher in math than regularly certified teachers. This means they produce better test scores at a slightly higher rate than their compatriots.
- NY Teaching Fellows have similar rates of retention as regularly-certified teachers (around 50% after 5 years) but TFA teachers are much lower (18% after 5 years).
- Experience is the best predictor of successful increases in VAM.
While this information may be used to argue that TFA teachers are the same (or better) than regularly-certified teachers, I think we should take a moment to analyze the metrics used: test scores and VAM. From my experience I would argue there is another lurking variable: teaching to the test. Additionally, since they are using VAM as a measure of student learning when, as Gary Rubenstein recently pointed out, it is not.
The most important take-aways for me from this article are: 1) New York City (like others) has simply changed the definition of "uncertified" and allowed those with little to no experience to remain in the classroom; and 2) We should be emphasizing teacher retention to improve quality overall - even if it only affects VAM in this study, overall it improves outcomes for children.