Studies: For struggling math students, teacher quality matters

14 Apr


Moi wrote in Is an individualized program more effective in math learning?


Math is important for a number of reasons.


Michigan State University’s Office of Supportive Services succinctly states why math is important:


Why is math important?


All four year Universities have a math requirement


Math improves your skills:


  • Critical Thinking Skills

  • Deductive Logic and Reasoning Skills

  • Problem Solving Skills


A good knowledge of math and statistics can expand your career options


Physical Sciences – Chemistry, Engineering, Physics


Life and Health Sciences – Biology, Psychology, Pharmacy, Nursing, Optometry


Social Sciences – Anthropology, Communications, Economics, Linquistics, Education, Geography


Technical Sciences – Computer Science, Networking, Software Development


Business and Commerce


Actuarial Sciences




Often, the students who need the best math teachers are shortchanged.


Sarah D. Sparks writes in the Education Week article, Qualified Math Teachers Elusive for Struggling Students, Studies Find:


Succeeding in freshman-level mathematics is critical for students to stay on track to high school graduation, with students who make poor grades in math in 8th and 9th grades more likely to leave school entirely.

Yet two new studies presented at the Association for Education Finance and Policy meeting here last month suggest that students who enter high school performing below average in math have a lower chance of getting a teacher who is well-qualified to teach math than do higher-achieving students. The problem, the research concludes, exacerbates gaps in teacher access between schools with different performance and wealth levels.

In one studyRequires Adobe Acrobat Reader, Cara Jackson, a research assistant at the University of Maryland College Park, analyzed the math coursetaking and achievement of 12,900 9th graders at 730 high schools nationwide who were linked with their high school math teachers as part of the federal High School Longitudinal Study of 2009.

Ms. Jackson calculated the odds of different students’ learning math in 9th grade from a “qualified” teacher, defined as one who: had earned at least a bachelor’s degree, with seven or more different courses taken in mathematics; was certified by the state to teach high school math; and had been teaching at least five years.

Assignment Priorities

Ms. Jackson found big differences in how high- and low-performing schools allocate teachers….

Similarly, in a separate reportRequires Adobe Acrobat Reader, researchers from the American Institutes of Research’s Center for Analysis of Longitudinal Data in Education Research, or CALDER, probed the differences in the value, as measured by assessment results, that teachers added at high-poverty and wealthy schools in Florida and North Carolina from 2000 to 2005.

At schools with more than 70 percent of their students in poverty, the researchers found, teachers were, on average, less effective than those at schools with less concentrated poverty. Specifically, while highly effective teachers performed at about the same level in both high- and low-poverty schools, there was a much greater range of effectiveness among lower-performing teachers in high-poverty schools than in richer ones. Teachers in high-poverty schools were also generally less likely to have a graduate degree, or to be certified by the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards.

“These differences are apparent even among new teachers,” said Philip M. Gleason, a senior fellow with Mathematica Policy Research who was not associated with either study. “This isn’t just a story of high-poverty schools having lots of turnover so more students have inexperienced teachers; that isn’t explaining what they are finding.”

Rather, teachers at low-income schools did not improve professionally over their years of experience as much as their colleagues at wealthier schools, according to study co-author Zeyu Xu, a CALDER senior research associate. “Why is the bottom of the teacher distribution lower in high-poverty schools?” Mr. Xu said. “It could be teachers are learning less in high-poverty schools, or that better teachers are likely to move out of high-poverty schools.”

At the same time, Ms. Jackson’s research also found that, among schools with lower overall student achievement, those with good student behavior and principals with high expectations were more likely to give students of all stripes access to qualified teachers in math. In higher-achieving schools, student behavior was not linked to teacher availability.


Here is what the Pearson blog said about the Jackson study:


Study: Struggling students least likely to have quality math teachers

Many low-performing ninth graders struggling to meet the more rigorous Common Core math standards could improve their chances of success if they had access to quality instruction, but a new study suggests that these students are the least likely of all to be taught by a qualified math teacher.

“Within schools, a student’s access to qualified teachers wasn’t related to gender or race or socioeconomic status, or whether the student is an English-language learner,” Cara Jackson, a research assistant at the University of Maryland College Park, told Education Week. “It is related to whether the student is enrolled in special education or a low-level math class.”

The study defines “qualified” teachers as those who have earned at least a bachelors degree, with seven or more different math courses taken, are state certified to teach high school math and have been teaching for at least five years.

Jackson found that only 54 percent of ninth grade students have a math teacher that is, by the study’s standards, “qualified.” High-performing students are 10 percent more likely to have a qualified math teacher than low-performing students.

At this critical juncture in math education, the disparity may make it even more difficult for struggling students to close the achievement gap as they move towards graduation.


Here is information about the CALDER paper No. 52:


Working Paper 52


Value Added of Teachers in High-Poverty Schools and Lower-Poverty Schools
Working Paper 52
Author(s): Tim R. Sass, Jane Hannaway, Zeyu Xu, David N. Figlio, and Li Feng

Using data from North Carolina and Florida, this paper examines whether teachers in high-poverty schools are as effective as teachers in schools with more advantaged students. Bottom teachers in high-poverty schools are less effective than bottom teachers in lower-poverty schools. The best teachers, by comparison, are equally effective across school poverty settings. The gap in teacher quality appears to arise from the lower payoff to teacher qualifications in high-poverty schools.  In particular, the experience-productivity relationship is weaker in high-poverty schools and is not related to teacher mobility patterns. Recruiting teachers with good credentials into high-poverty schools may be insufficient to narrow the teacher quality gap. Policies that promote the long-term productivity of teachers in challenging high-poverty schools appear key.

Published: November 2010 | Download: pdf icon new Full Text (PDF 629KB) | Journal Publication


In Perhaps the biggest math challenge is how to teach math, moi said:


There will continue to be battles between those who favor a more traditional education and those who are open to the latest education fad. These battles will be fought out in school board meetings, PTSAs, and the courts.


There is one way to, as Susan Powder says, “Stop the Insanity.” Genuine school choice allows parents or guardians to select the best educational setting for their child. Many policy wonks would like to believe that only one type of family seeks genuine school choice, the right wing wacko who makes regular visits on the “tea party” circuit. That is not true. Many parents favor a back-to-the basics traditional approach to education.


A one-size-fits-all approach does not work in education




Study: Early mastery of fractions is a predictor of math success


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