Education Week - March 25, 2015 - (Page 10)

New Studies Challenge Notion That Teachers Plateau Early in Careers CONTINUED FROM PAGE 1 from all sorts of people, Bill Gates on down," said John P. Papay, an assistant professor of education and economics at Brown University, in Providence, R.I. He is the co-author of one of two new studies on the topic. "But teacher quality is not something that's fixed. It does develop, and if you're making a decision about a teacher's career, you should be looking at that dynamic." Better With Age Investigating the connection between a teacher's experience and his or her teaching quality has long proved methodologically challenging, largely because of the difficulty in comparing cohorts of students taught by teachers of varied experience levels with different training and backgrounds. Studies based on such cross-sectional comparisons have tended to find few performance differences between early- and later-career teachers. Beginning in the early 2000s, scholars began to track the same teachers over time, linking them to their students' test scores. But there are pitfalls to that type of statistical modeling, too. For one, it requires researchers to make assumptions about a typical teacher's growth trajectory over time in order to disentangle the effects of each year of experience from other possible influences, such as a change in class size or curriculum that might have occurred. In their new study, Mr. Papay and his co-author, Matthew A. Kraft, also of Brown University, show that some assumptions in prior research have had a tendency to depress the effect of teachers' experience on student achievement. For their study, forthcoming in the Journal of Public Economics, the researchers looked at a set of some 200,000 student test scores linked to about 3,500 different teachers from an unnamed urban district. They analyzed those data using three different methods, each of which relies on different baseline assumptions about how to capture growth in teacher effectiveness as teachers gain experience. Under all three of the models studied, the researchers found teachers' ability to improve student achievement persisted well beyond the three- to five-year mark. While the teachers did make the most progress during their first few years in the classroom, teachers improved their ability to boost student test scores on average by 40 percent between their 10th and their 30th year on the job, the study shows. The improvements were seen in both reading and math teachers, but were stronger in mathematics. Beyond Test Scores What's more, teachers with more years of experience are better equipped to boost more than just test scores, according to a second new study, released as a working paper by the Washington-based BLOGS Science Standards Call For Teaching 'Mysteries' | CURRICULUM MATTERS | In a packed session at the National Science Teachers Association's recent conference, a professor who helped lead the development of the Next Generation Science Standards described the new standards as "a shift from learning about something to figuring out something." Brian J. Reiser, a professor of learning sciences at Northwestern University, offered this example: "Ngss does not ask you to explain photosynthesis, ngss asks you to explain how a tree gets all its stuff." Traditionally, science classes have been taught a few different ways, he said. One way is through application: The teacher presents the idea, then students do the lab experiment to see it in action. The ngss storyline is different. Students are given a big question that they can relate to-a "mystery" of sorts. Through their investigation of that question, they hit on other phenomena along the way that they also need to investigate and explain. Reiser showed a lesson in which students were told that there was a large decrease in the number of Galapagos finches between 1976 and 1977. Students were tasked with figuring out why so many finches died and why some survived. They were given access to data on the Web and had to figure out which questions to ask and what information was relevant. Eventually, students determined that there was a drought at that time and that the seeds the birds ate were nearly depleted. Birds with longer beaks survived because they were able to open the leftover, tough-shelled seeds. From there, students probe a similar phenomenon-say, why peppered moths were more prominent during the Industrial Revolution. "Then you ask students to tell the story without the finch or moth," Reiser said. Eventually, they come up with a model. Reiser said that's when you deliver the kicker: "Scientists have built a story like this, too, and it's called natural selection." -LIANA HEITIN Using Data to Match Students to Career Paths | COLLEGE BOUND | More K-12 and college systems are turning to technology and analytics to better engage and track students. At the recent SXSWedu conference, administrators shared how expanded access to data helped them improve career planning 10 | EDUCATION WEEK | March 25, 2015 | for high school students, deepen learning experiences on college campuses, and retain students who might otherwise fall off track. Concerns over privacy, along with limited time and budgets, keep many systems from fully realizing their visions for leveraging data and innovation. On one panel, Doyle Vogler, an assistant superintendent of schools in Lubbock, Texas, explained how high school students in his district create online personal graduation plans that they update yearly with the input of counselors and parents. With the program, students track their own progress and link to universities with degrees in their area of interest and job-market prospects for those fields. It allows students to become "consumers of their own education," said Vogler of the approach being used in his 30,000-student district where 70 percent of students are low-income. By looking at past performance, students are given projections of their likely success in future courses-although not "tracked," he added. The analysis helps students create career pathways, which might not include college but can help them see potential matches in fields from manufacturing to information technology. -CARALEE J. ADAMS .2 .15 LONG-TERM GAINS .1 .05 North Carolina middle school math teachers' ability to boost their students' scores improved for more than a decade in the 2000s-not just in their first 3 to 5 years. (The tails for each point represent confidence intervals.) SOURCE: National Center for Analysis of Longitudinal Data in Education Research 0 0 10 Teachers' years of experience 20 30 National Center for Analysis of Longitudinal Data in Education Research. Researchers Helen F. Ladd and Lucy C. Sorenson, both of Duke University, in Durham, N.C., analyzed records from about 1.2 million middle school students in North Carolina from 2007 to 2011, including absences, reported disciplinary offenses, and test scores. The data also contain responses from 6th through 8th graders about time spent on homework and their reading habits. Using a value-added method similar to that of the Brown University scholars, Ms. Ladd and Ms. Sorenson similarly found that, on average, the students' teachers continued to improve their effectiveness in boosting academic outcomes for at least 12 years. Regarding nontest outcomes, the data show that as teachers gained experience, they were linked to lower rates of student absenteeism. The researchers postulate that more experienced teachers got better at motivating students and in classroom management, resulting in better attendance and fewer infractions. The study also found suggestive evidence of benefits to time spent on reading and homework completion. But because of statistical "noise" surrounding those findings, they are not as precise. The nontest findings were most marked for reading teachers rather than for math teachers, in contrast to the student-achievement findings, which were stronger for the math teachers. Unions Respond In all, the new studies paint teacher quality as a mutable characteristic that can be developed, rather than a static one that's formed in the first few years on the job. That's a welcome change for the 3 million-member National Education Association, which has long maintained that teacher experience matters and should be considered in determining pay and promotions. "These are incredibly important studies, and I think we'd make a big mistake if we didn't look at them carefully and re-examine some assumptions," said Segun Eubanks, the director of teacher quality for the nea. "The idea of teachers maxing out in five years was so contradictory to what we know about other professions." Mr. Eubanks said that the findings suggest policymakers redouble efforts to improve teacher retention and evaluating teachers on factors beyond test scores. "It isn't that you scrap all reforms and go back to the good old days, but it's time to look at a third way-career ladders, shortened salary schedules, hybrid teaching roles," he said. Both sets of researchers stressed that their findings concern the average teacher's rate of improvement over his or her career. They shouldn't be interpreted to mean that experienced teachers are always better than novices. The studies also dovetail with a small but growing body of research suggesting that high-quality coaching and professional development can improve teacher effectiveness. "My policy conclusion from this is that we have to help teachers grow. They have the potential," said Ms. Ladd, a professor of economics. "You want to get high-quality teachers in the first place and then you want to stick with them." Students' math test score (standard deviation)

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Education Week - March 25, 2015

Education Week - March 25, 2015
Civics Tests for Diplomas Gain Traction
For Education Next, Views With An Edge
Employers Integral To Career Studies
Experience Seen as Boost For Teachers
Elite Private Schools Tackle Ed Tech
News in Brief
Report Roundup
Eligibility Rules Fuel Growth Of Indiana’s Voucher Program
States Should Play Role in Fostering Engagement, Report Says
Teacher-Leadership Movement Gets Boost From Ed. Dept.
Blogs of the Week
Nonprofits Link Businesses To Career-Tech Programs
At Beaver Country Day, Investing In Innovation
Special Education Task Force Urges Overhaul for California
Gov. Cuomo’s Budget Sparks Backlash in N.Y.
Fight Looms on Kansas Plan To Fund K-12 Via Block Grants
Blogs of the Week
Why School Policies Need to Be Fine-Tuned
Which ‘Common Core’ Are We Talking About?
What Will Be the Impact of the Assessments?
More Educator Voices on Common-Core Implementation
Overcoming ‘Initiative Fatigue’
TopSchoolJobs Recruitment Marketplace
Breaking the Code of the Common Core

Education Week - March 25, 2015