Super Chart!

(Guest Post by Matthew Ladner)

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This chart from Brookings is one of the most important education charts I’ve seen in several years. Rather than me going on about why I think that is, super edu-nerd bonus points for you if you do so in the comments section. We are all about community here a JPGB!

Hint: there is more than one reason.

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14 Responses to Super Chart!

  1. Oooh, ooh, Mr Kotter, I think I know. The chart shows 1) that it basically makes no difference whether is certified, alternatively certified, or uncertified. That means that we shouldn’t expect to improve things by pushing for having more teachers certified or by pushing for more alt cert. Those reforms are likely to be dead ends. And 2) there is an enormous range in the effectiveness of teachers. If we could figure out how to recruit and retain those more effective teacher while getting rid of the duds, we could make some real progress.

    Do I get super edu-nerd bonus points?

  2. Greg Forster says:

    Employees of Jay P. Greene’s Blog and their families are ineligible for super edu-nerd bonus points.

  3. Patrick says:

    Oooh, ooh, Mr Kotter, I think I know. The chart shows 1) that it basically makes no difference whether is certified, alternatively certified, or uncertified. That means that we shouldn’t expect to improve things by pushing for having more teachers certified or by pushing for more alt cert. Those reforms are likely to be dead ends. And 2) there is an enormous range in the effectiveness of teachers. If we could figure out how to recruit and retain those more effective teacher while getting rid of the duds, we could make some real progress.

    Do I get super edu-nerd bonus points?

    –Note: if you accuse me of cheating or copying I will sue.

  4. pm says:

    I was thinking of a third point, which is that the mean impact appears to be negative.

  5. JR says:

    Pm, this “third point” could lead to an interesting study: effect of teachers on learning. Treatment: students have teachers. Control: students do not have teachers. Test them at the beginning and end of the year. Measure the impact. Sounds fun. I would have enjoyed being a student in the control group. ;-)

  6. Brian says:

    So what’s the answer? These all seem too obvious to be prizeworthy. And, though I know it’s not the answer you’re looking for, the traditionally certified line clearly has a higher mean, perhaps as much as a couple percentage points, perhaps statistically significant, for whatever that’s worth. In most education research, anything that moves students, even if only a percentage point or two, is usually touted by supporters as a success.
    The only way to really evaluate these things is through a proper cost-benefit analysis, where we determine the price of a policy like certification relative to its gains and how redistributing those resources to different policies could or could not produce more effective gains.

  7. Greg Forster says:

    Patrick, if that was a sly reference to my PJM column, thanks!

    Brian, in my experience, reforms that involve spending more money are touted as revolutionary if they move the mean by a percentage point or two (even if the difference is not statistically significant, as has been the case in almost all empirical studies of traditional certification). But the impact of reforms that involve accountability or choice is dismissed as “trivial” even when it is much larger. With shocking regularity, these assessments even come from the same people.

  8. Brian says:

    You’re right Greg, that does happen, and again, I think part of the problem is that these findings need denominators. That would make the choice between teacher certification policies and accountability and choice policies easier for people to put into context. There’s nothing wrong with traditional certification if the only information we have is that it moves student outcomes up a few percentage ppoints. It’s the amount that it costs the public in higher salaries relative to the gains that matters.

  9. matthewladner says:

    Brian-

    You are right, but there is an even bigger cost: keeping all of the alternative certified and non-certified teachers from the right hand of the bell-curve out of the classroom. Kids need all the highly effective teachers they can get.

    This chart goes back to one of the first posts I did on JBGB: we should remove the super low performing teachers, give their students to highly performing teachers, and give most of the money to the high performers:

    http://jaypgreene.com/2008/04/25/indiana-jones-and-the-teacher-quality-crusade/

    Kids win, high performing teachers win, low performing teachers get to do something better with their lives than damaging the long term prospects of kids.

  10. Margo/Mom says:

    It seems to me that this is looking at the wrong question. I didn’t start really thinking about this until I saw how quickly my son’s special education teachers became “highly qualified” and I started really looking into these things. The chart doesn’t take into account the content area in which the teacher is certified, not certified or alternatively certified. My kid has generally (I almost said consistently–til I remembered the teacher he had who wasn’t certified) had teachers who were certified. They were all certified in special education. They became “highly qualified” to teach secondary mathematics through a system of grandfathering plus workshops. This does not mean that they have ever taken a college level mathematics course. A totally non-certified math guru might have had more success in teaching math content.

    So–in evaluating the chart, I would want to know how many of the certified teachers were certified in phys ed, home ec, special ed or history. It seems to me to be asking the wrong question. Certification is not an adequate proxy for teaching in field–which in mathematics has been shown to matter.

  11. Greg Forster says:

    Margo, I think that’s kind of the point Matt is making – or one of them, anyway. Certification has no reliable connection to content knowledge, which is why it also has no reliable connection to results. Having a degree in a content area, by contrast, has been shown to produce better results.

  12. [...] dump freshly-printed greenbacks into traditional, union-controlled teacher licensure programs that do nothing for the bottom line of education? Or might they consider using the cash to improve the quality of [...]

  13. [...] and reformers would be wise to pay more attention to how the government monopoly warps the teaching [...]

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