New teachers have higher SAT scores than in past years

20 Nov

Moi wrote in Is it true that the dumbest become teachers?

There is a quote attributed to H.L. Mencken:
Those who can — do. Those who can’t — teach.

People often assume that if a person could do anything else, they probably wouldn’t teach. Matthew Di Carlo, senior fellow at the non-profit Albert Shanker Institute, located in Washington, D.C. has an interesting article in the Washington Post.

In Do teachers really come from the ‘bottom third’ of college graduates? Di Carlo writes:

The conventional wisdom among many education commentators is that U.S. public school teachers “come from the bottom third” of their classes. Most recently, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg took this talking point a step further, and asserted at a press conference last week that teachers are drawn from the bottom 20 percent of graduates.
All of this is supposed to imply that the U.S. has a serious problem with the “quality” of applicants to the profession.
Despite the ubiquity of the “bottom third” and similar arguments (which are sometimes phrased as massive generalizations, with no reference to actual proportions), it’s unclear how many of those who offer them know what specifically they refer to (e.g., GPA, SAT/ACT, college rank, etc.). This is especially important since so many of these measurable characteristics are not associated with future test-based effectiveness in the classroom, while those that are are only modestly so.
Still, given how often it is used, as well as the fact that it is always useful to understand and examine the characteristics of the teacher labor supply, it’s worth taking a quick look at where the “bottom third” claim comes from and what it might or might not mean.
Most people who put forth this assertion cite one of two sources, both from the McKinsey & Company consulting organization. The first is an influential 2007 report , which simply notes that “we are now recruiting our teachers from the bottom third of high school students going to college.” The authors fail to specify how “bottom third” is defined, or whether their data refer to graduates who planned to teach versus those who actually got a job (the latter method is, of course, far preferable).
The citation for this claim is a 2007 report from the New Commission on the Skills of the American Workforce, which was issued by the National Center on Education and Economy (NCEE). The full report is not freely available online, but it turns out (thanks to the work of California teacher Larry Ferlazzo) that its source is the National Center for Education Statistics’ annual “Condition of Education” (CoE) report (2002 edition).
There don’t seem to be any breakdowns in the cited report that permit one to examine precisely how many teachers come from the “bottom third,” but the CoE does include a few tables on the SAT/ACT scores of teachers who received a bachelor’s degree in 1992-93 and had actually taught by the time 1997 rolled around (and for whom such data were available).
Tne table lists directly the percent of teachers who scored in the top half – 40.9 percent. Using figures in a different table to very roughly ballpark the proportion of 1992-93 graduates-turned-teachers in the bottom quartile (lowest 25 percent), it would be a little under 30 percent.*
Overall, then, 1992-93 graduates who chose teaching were somewhat overrepresented in the bottom of the distribution, and underrepresented in the top. The blanket characterization of these results by McKinsey (via NCEE) – that we are “recruiting our teachers from the bottom third” – seems more than a little misleading.
The second standard source for the “bottom third” claims is more clear and well-documented. It is a subsequent McKinsey report (2010), one which doesn’t rely on questionable interpretations from indirect sources, but rather its own analysis. That report claims, “The U.S. attracts most of its teachers from the bottom two-thirds of college classes, with nearly half coming from the bottom third.”
According to a footnote, these data are “derived from the U.S. Department of Education, NCES, 2001 Baccalaureate and Beyond Longitudinal Survey.” The appendix to the report confirms that the “top-“ and “bottom” third figures are also based on SAT/ACT scores, specifically those of 1999 graduates whose first job (at least by 2001) was teaching. The breakdown for these graduates is as follows: 23 percent came from the “top third;” 47 percent from the “bottom third;” and 29 percent from the “middle third.” This presents a somewhat more negative picture than the CoE data discussed above.
Why the differences? Because these studies are looking at different groups of teachers. In the CoE data, it’s 1993 graduates who had taught by 1997 (four years later), while the data used in the second McKinsey include 1999 graduates who, in 2001 (two years later), said their first job was (or is) teaching. In other words, each set of results is based on two different cohorts of college graduates, who are also identified in different ways, at different points after graduation….
Neither sample is necessarily representative of the teacher workforce as a whole, or of prior and subsequent cohorts.
Overall, then, the blanket assertion that teachers are coming from the “bottom third” of graduates is, at best, an incomplete picture. It’s certainly true that, when the terciles are defined in terms of SAT/ACT scores, there is consistent evidence that new teachers are disproportionately represented in this group (see here and here for examples from the academic literature).

There isn’t really a definitive answer.

Joy Resmovits reported at Huffington Post about two studies which indicated the quality of new teachers may be improving.

In Starting Teacher SAT Scores Rise As Educators Face Tougher Evaluations, Resmovits reported:

American teachers may be getting smarter.
Still, scrutiny of their work and cries to overhaul the education system intensify.
The education reform group National Council on Teacher Quality, and Harvard University’s Education Next journal on Wednesday each released a paper about the state of the teaching force. The paper by National Council on Teacher Quality, a Washington-based think tank that has long advocated for rigorous teacher evaluations, provides an overall look at how states are evaluating teachers and using the results. The Education Next paper, authored by the University of Washington’s Dan Goldhaber and Joe Walch, investigated the academic qualifications of new teachers and found that average SAT scores have increased significantly over the last decade.
Taken together, the articles show an evolving workforce that raises questions about the often extreme hand-wringing over teacher quality. “Although teachers in the U.S. are more likely to be drawn from the lower end of the academic achievement distribution than are teachers in selected high-performing countries, the picture is a bit more nuanced than the rhetoric suggests,” Goldhaber and Walch wrote.
Advocates who have supported the evaluations highlighted by National Council on Teacher Quality continue pushing states to take them further — higher SAT scores or otherwise. “The SAT data is an encouraging sign, and we should keep heading in that direction, as it seems to be an indicator of whether a teacher can actually produce gains,” said Eric Lerum, a vice president at StudentsFirst, the Sacramento-based lobbying and advocacy group started by former Washington schools chancellor Michelle Rhee. “But it doesn’t tell us enough — Goldhaber says it’s not conclusive enough that the trend is reversing — and we’re still not taking enough top-shelf talent and getting them into teaching. We need to use the data we do have and take a comprehensive approach toward improving teacher quality….”

Dan Goldhaber and Joe Walch analyzed teacher quality in an article at Education Next.

Goldhaber and Walch wrote in Gains in Teacher Quality:

In summary, although teachers in the U.S. are more likely to be drawn from the lower end of the academic achievement distribution than are teachers in selected high-performing countries, the picture is a bit more nuanced than the rhetoric suggests, and as we illustrate, it has in fact changed over time in an encouraging direction. There was an upward shift in achievement for 2008 college graduates entering the teacher workforce the following school year. In fact, 2008 graduates both with and without STEM majors who entered the teacher workforce had higher average SAT scores than their peers who entered other occupations.
What explains the apparent rise in academic competency among new teachers? As we show, the SAT scores of those seeking and finding employment in a teaching job differ in different years. It is possible that alternative pathways into the teaching profession have become an important source of academic talent for the profession. Unfortunately, we cannot explore this issue in any depth because the way in which teachers were asked about their preparation has varied over time. Regardless, alternative routes are unlikely to be the primary explanation for the changing SAT trends given that, with a few high-profile exceptions like Teach for America, alternative certification programs are not highly selective.
Differences in the labor market context across years may help explain the rise in SAT scores. According to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average unemployment rate in 2009 was about 9 percent to about 6 and 5 percent in 1994 and 2001, respectively. The high unemployment rate in 2009 may have led more high-scoring graduates to choose to pursue comparatively stable and secure teaching jobs rather than occupations that were viewed as riskier in the economic downturn. By contrast, those graduating in 2000 were entering the labor market during the tech boom, when there was a good deal of competition for the labor of prospective teachers. Regardless of the reason for the changes in academic proficiency that we observe, however, the data are encouraging and may represent the reversal of the long-term trend of declining academic talent entering teaching….

Kids know good teaching when they see it. Donna Gordon Blankinship of AP wrotein the Seattle Times article, How Do You Find An Effective Teacher? Ask A Kid:

Adults may be a little surprised by some of the preliminary findings of new research on what makes a great teacher.
How do you find the most effective teachers? Ask your kids. That’s one of four main conclusions of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and its research partners after the first year of its Measures of Effective Teaching Project.
Preliminary results of the study were posted online Friday; a more complete report is expected in April, according to the foundation….
The first four conclusions of the study are as follows:
-The average student knows effective teaching when he or she experiences it.
-In every grade and every subject, a teacher’s past success in raising student achievement on state tests is one of the strongest predictors of his or her ability to do so again.
-The teachers with the highest value-added scores on state tests, which show improvement by individual students during the time they were in their classroom, are also the teachers who do the best job helping their students understand math concepts or demonstrate reading comprehension through writing.
-Valid feedback does not need to come from test scores alone. Other data can give teachers the information they need to improve, including student opinions of how organized and effective a teacher is….

See, What Works in the Classroom? Ask the Students

Bottom line, education is a partnership between the student, parent(s) or guardian(s), teacher(s), and school. All parts of the partnership must be involved. Students must arrive at school ready to learn. Parents must provide an environment which supports education and education achievement. Teachers must have strong subject matter knowledge and pedagogic skills. Schools must provide safe environments and discipline. Communities are also part of a successful school system and outcome for community children. Education is a partnership.


A Comparative Study of Teacher Preparation and Qualifications in Six Nations
Consortium for Policy Research In Education
By Richard M. Ingersoll, United States With
Ding Gang and Sun Meilu, People’s Republic of China (PRC)
Kwok Chan Lai, Hong Kong
Hidenori Fujita, Japan
Ee-gyeong Kim, Republic of Korea
Steven K. S. Tan and Angela F. L. Wong, Singapore
Pruet Siribanpitak and Siriporn Boonyananta, Thailand

Click to access sixnations_final.pdf


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