Vanderbilt study: ‘No Child Left Behind’ not as bad for teachers as previously thought

11 Jun

Melanie Smollin has an excellent post at Take Part, Five Reasons Why Teacher Turnover Is On The Rise:

With approximately 1.6 million teachers set to retire in the next decade, replenishing America’s teaching force should be a top priority. But filling classrooms with new teachers is only half the battle. Retaining them is equally important.
Numerous studies show that teachers perform best after being in the classroom for at least five years. According to a McKinsey study, 14 percent of American teachers leave after only one year, and 46 percent quit before their fifth year. In countries with the highest results on international tests, teacher turnover rates are much lower—around 3 percent.
This constant cycling in and out of new teachers is a costly phenomena. Students miss being taught by experienced educators, and schools and districts nationwide spend about $2.2 billion per year recruiting and training replacements.
Why are so many new teachers fleeing the profession after so few years in the classroom? Here are the top five reasons teacher turnover is an ongoing challenge:
5. BURNOUT: A recent U.C. Berkeley study of Los Angeles charter schools found unusually high rates of teacher turnover. At the 163 charter schools studied, teacher turnover hovered around 40 percent, compared to 15 percent at traditional public schools…..
4.THREAT OF LAYOFFS: In response to annual budget shortfalls, districts nationwide have sent pink slips to tens of thousands of teachers each spring for the past four years. In 2011, California sent out 30,000….
3. LOW WAGES: U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan recently said that teachers should earn between $60,000 and $150,000 per year. That’s a far cry from the current national average starting salary for teachers, which is $35,139….
2. TESTING PRESSURE: Since the No Child Left Behind Act was introduced in 2001, standardized test scores in math and reading have become the most important accountability measure used to evaluate schools….
1. POOR WORKING CONDITIONS: When the Gates foundation polled 40,000 teachers about job satisfaction, the majority agreed that supportive leadership, time for collaboration, access to high quality curriculum and resources, clean and safe buildings, and relevant professional development were even more important than higher salaries.
But working conditions in many public schools remain far from this ideal—especially for beginning teachers, who are most likely to be assigned to the highest-need schools. Despite the added challenges they face, these teachers are often given few resources and little professional support.

Since many teachers will be leaving the profession in the next few years, the question is what effect teacher departures have on students and are there traits of teachers who choose to remain in the classroom which should be studied.

Holly Yettick reported in the Education Week article, Study Links Teacher ‘Grit’ with Effectiveness, Retention:

In recent years, we’ve heard a lot about gritty students. Now grit researchers are turning their attention to teachers. In a study published in the current issue of the peer-reviewed journal Teachers College Record, University of Pennsylvania researchers Claire Robertson-Kraft and Angela Duckworth found that, for novice teachers in high-poverty school districts, higher levels of “perseverance and passion for long-term goals” (aka “grit”) were associated with higher rates of effectiveness and retention.
“No single factor alone should determine a hiring decision for a teacher,” said Robertson-Kraft, a doctoral candidate in education policy and former 3rd grade teacher. “But the study does suggest that grit is one factor that could be considered among many….”

According to a study by Jason A. Grissom, Vanderbilt University, Sean Nicholson-Crotty, Indiana University and James R. Harrington of the University of Texas at Dallas, the effect of teacher dissatisfaction with “No Child Left Behind” may have been overrated.

Rebecca Klein reported in the Huffington Post article, Turns Out No Child Left Behind May Have Actually Been Good For Teachers:

When Vanderbilt University professor Jason A. Grissom started exploring how the No Child Left Behind Act has affected teachers, he expected to find that the 2001 Bush-era law made their work harder.
“More testing, higher-stakes testing … a lot of teachers don’t like testing,” Grissom, an assistant professor of public policy and education, told The Huffington Post by phone.
However, after comparing a major teacher survey from the years before No Child Left Behind with more recent versions, Grissom and two fellow researchers found nearly the opposite to be true.
“We don’t find evidence of these big negative impacts that I think we and other people would expect to find,” Grissom said.
The study by Grissom, Sean Nicholson-Crotty of Indiana University, and James R. Harrington of University of Texas at Dallas, was released Tuesday in an American Educational Research Association article titled, “Estimating the Effects of No Child Left Behind on Teachers’ Work Environments and Job Attitudes.” The paper finds that since No Child Left Behind, teachers report feeling more autonomous, more supported by school administrators and have higher levels of job satisfaction. At the same time, teachers are working longer hours and may feel less cooperation with fellow educators.
While prior studies have looked at teachers’ views of the law, “most evidence on the matter has been gathered in limited or non-representative samples,” the researchers write. The National Center for Education Statistics’ Schools and Staffing Survey –- analyzed by Grissom and his colleagues –- is a nationally representative survey of K-12 teachers. The researchers compared the survey’s results from 1993-1994, 1999-2000, 2003-2004, and 2007-2008. They looked at responses to questions about the number of hours worked, autonomy, support, satisfaction and commitment.
No Child Left Behind requires annual statewide achievement tests to gauge whether schools meet performance goals. The paper points out that conventional wisdom generally holds that No Child Left Behind had a negative impact on classrooms. But the researchers found that “while teachers’ hours worked have increased, so have their feelings of classroom control and their perceptions of support from peers, administrators, and parents. Concomitantly, teacher job satisfaction and commitment to the profession appear to have increased over this time period as well….”


Estimating the Effects of No Child Left Behind on Teachers and Their Work Environment

Published online first in: Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis
June 10, 2014

Jason A. Grissom, Vanderbilt University
Sean Nicholson-Crotty, Indiana University
James R. Harrington, University of Texas at Dallas


Several recent studies have examined the impacts of No Child Left Behind (NCLB) on school operations and student achievement. We complement that work by investigating the law’s impacts on teachers’ perceptions of their work environments and related job attitudes, including satisfaction and commitment to remain in teaching. Using four waves of the nationally representative Schools and Staffing Survey, which cover the period from 1994 to 2008, we document overall trends in teacher attitudes across this time period and take advantage of differences in the presence and strength of prior state accountability systems and differences in likely impacts on high- and low-poverty schools to isolate NCLB effects. Perhaps surprisingly, we show positive trends in many work environment measures, job satisfaction, and commitment across the time period coinciding with the implementation of NCLB. We find, however, relatively modest evidence of an impact of NCLB accountability itself. There is some evidence that the law has negatively affected perceptions of teacher cooperation but positively affected feelings of classroom control and administrator support. We find little evidence that teacher job satisfaction or commitment has changed in response to NCLB.

Read the full article

Here is the press release from Vanderbilt:

Study: ‘No Child Left Behind’ is getting a bad rap
by Joan Brasher | Posted on Tuesday, Jun. 10, 2014 — 8:47 AM
The commonly held notion that the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 has eroded teacher job satisfaction and undermined job retention is off the mark, according to new Vanderbilt research. A survey of 140,000 public school teachers yielded surprising results that may change public perception of this controversial reform, according to lead investigator Jason Grissom.
Grissom (Vanderbilt)
“The results of the study just don’t support the idea that No Child Left Behind has made teachers less satisfied with their jobs or less committed to staying in the teaching profession,” said Grissom, assistant professor of public policy and education at Vanderbilt’s Peabody College of education and human development. “This may be because, as our findings suggest, NCLB has had some negative impacts on teachers’ work lives, but also some positive ones—which we don’t always think about—to balance them out.”
Overall, the data showed that the implementation of NCLB did not undermine job satisfaction and commitment to the profession. In fact, the percentage of teachers who said they intended to remain in the profession until retirement actually increased by 12 percent.
The results of the study were published online today in Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis, a peer-reviewed journal of the American Educational Research Association.
Diving into the Data
Grissom analyzed a nationally representative sample of 140,000 regular, full-time public school teachers from four waves of the National Center for Education Statistics’ Schools and Staffing Survey. He measured the impact of NCLB on teachers’ job demands, perceived autonomy, workplace support and job satisfaction. Two of the waves collected data during the 1993-94 and 1999-00 academic years—prior to the NCLB’s implementation in 2002-03—while the other two did so during the 2003-04 and 2007-08 academic years.
Teachers’ Dedication is part of the Equation
Grissom, who partnered with researchers at Indiana University and University of Texas at Dallas to conduct the study, found that while there is some evidence that NCLB’s accountability pressures reduced feelings of cooperation among teachers, its implementation also may have improved their sense of classroom autonomy and administrator support.
“I don’t think you can discount that teachers are resilient,” Grissom explained. “They have come to expect policy change. Most of them got into teaching because they enjoy working with young people and want to make a difference in their lives. While for some teachers the mandates of NCLB were a distraction, the law didn’t fundamentally change that desire and ability to make a difference.”
As NCLB implementation continues to undergo changes and Congress works to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, “our research makes clear that administrators and policymakers can’t rely solely on conventional wisdom to evaluate a policy’s effect on teachers,” Grissom said.
Read the full abstract of this study.

Follow Jason Grissom on Twitter at @JasonAGrissom.
Joan Brasher, (615) 322-NEWS

Every population of kids is different and they arrive at school at various points on the ready to learn continuum. Schools and teachers must be accountable, but there should be various measures of judging teacher effectiveness for a particular population of children. Perhaps, more time and effort should be spent in developing a strong principal corps and giving principals the training and assistance in evaluation and mentoring techniques. Teachers must be compensated fairly for their work. Dave Eggers and NÍnive Clements Calegari have a provocative New York Times article, The High Cost of Low Teacher Salaries The Center for American Progress has a report by Frank Adamson and Linda Darling Hammond, Speaking of Salaries: What It Will Take to Get Qualified, Effective Teachers In All Communities


No Child Left Behind A Parents Guide

MSNBC video: Why Do Good Teachers Leave?

Debate: Are Teachers’ Unions the Problem—or the Answer?

Quiet Riot: Insurgents Take On Teachers’ Unions,8599,2087980,00.html#ixzz1zgjC7qGS

Can Teachers Unions Do Education Reform?

Let a New Teacher-Union Debate Begin

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