Harvard Study Examines Teacher Effectiveness
The Obama administration's mounting pressure for states to review their policies for evaluating teacher effectiveness has been met with backlash from education veterans nationwide. A new study released from the Program on Education Policy and Governance at Harvard University, however, has just scored one point for advocates of merit pay and reforming teacher tenure. Its findings reveal that teacher effectiveness is not only unrelated to the college the teacher attended, but also that teacher effectiveness peaks after 10 years.
"It's Easier to Pick a Good Teacher Than to Train One: Familiar and New Results on the Correlates of Teacher Effectiveness," released on June 2, follows teachers of students in grades 4-8 throughout all schools in Florida between 2002 and 2009. Its the first study of its kind to follow isolated teachers over an extensive period of time.
While other studies have supported the notion that a master's degree does not influence teacher effectiveness, this study went one step further by demonstrating that the institution from which one earns a bachelor's degree does not either. The findings also support that while a teacher with a few years of experience is more effective than a new teacher, the effectiveness declines after a decade in the field.
"We thought the elite institutions would be doing better but, to our surprise, we didn't find that," says Paul Peterson, director of the Program of Education Policy and Governance at Harvard University.
The paper was presented at a conference, "Merit Pay: Will It Work? Is It Politically Viable?" held June 3 and 4 at Harvard University. According to Peterson, the general consensus was that merit pay could be effective if designed correctly and that broader strategies are needed for addressing tenure.
"I think this raises questions about the desirability of teacher tenure," says Peterson. "Teaching is a very hard job. I can see how someone who's been there for a while might not be bringing the same level of commitment to the job as someone in early years."
Peterson ultimately feels that local principals should be empowered to both pick and dismiss their staff, taking student achievement and other circumstances into account.
To view the full report, visit www.hks.harvard.edu/pepg.