Monday, October 14, 2013

Teacher Characteristics and Gains in Student Achievement

Hanushek, Eric. "Teacher characteristics and gains in student achievement: Estimation using micro data." The American Economic Review 61.2 (1971): 280-288.

The article “Teacher Characteristics and Gains in Student Achievement” was set out to understand exactly what background experience of teachers has to do with how well or poorly students achieve greatness inside the classroom. By using micro-data, researchers placed variables in the place of students and teachers to conduct studies on classroom behavior, achievement, and advancement. Researchers wanted to see if there was a correlation between what the students were learning and how much education the teachers had.
The studies did not prove to be as true as the researchers thought they’d be. The original hypothesis was that teachers with education reaching higher than a bachelor’s had more qualifications to help students succeed in the classroom than teachers with only bachelor’s degrees. The testing was completed over several years in several diverse communities. Researchers studied Title 1 schools, inner city schools, private schools, and predominantly white schools. All of the research came out the same: student achievement had more to do with the teacher’s character than with the teacher’s educational background or experience.
It was also mentioned that teachers with more years experience tried less hard to have the students succeed. Researchers mentioned that this was not on purpose, however, as time passed, teachers were less likely to learn something new and more likely to stick to what they had been doing in previous years.

“There is a suggestion that one can measure other dimensions of teacher and school quality. These include attitudes of teachers and administrators, verbal facility (and perhaps general ability) of teachers, quality of physical plant, quality of teacher education, background of teachers, and more” (Eric Hanushek, 2002).

“The analysis indicates that teaching experience and graduate education do not contribute to the gains of in student achievement scores” (Eric Hanushek, 2002).

In reading this article, I found it fascinating that it spoke so heavily against hiring teachers simply for their educational background. It’s interesting, also, that I work for an organization that focuses less on the educational background of teachers, and more on their ability to connect with students, prepare and produce meaningful projects, and truly understand progressive education. I appreciated that this article looked at all sides of education - from different classrooms, to different teachers, even to different equations (with multiple variables) to try and centralize the hypotheses centered around teacher education vs. teacher background.
I also appreciated how the article specifically states that this should only be taken as a primary (beginning stages) research article. They are admitting that this study only reaches a small educational circle, and that there are plans to expand the study and see other findings. I found it interesting that throughout the article the idea of education can help both the teacher and the students if all are willing to utilize those strengths. It isn’t enough to simply attain a master’s degree if the teacher is not going to use what he or she learned in the program to apply it to his or her students’ learning.

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