Education Week - April 3, 2013 - (Page 6)

6 EDUCATION WEEK n APRIL 3, 2013 n Gaps Found in Access to Qualified Math Teachers Struggling students face longest odds By Sarah D. Sparks New Orleans In many schools in the United States, students struggling the most in mathematics at the start of high school have the worst odds of getting a qualified teacher in the subject, new research finds. Succeeding in freshman-level mathematics is critical for students to stay on track to high school graduation, with students who make poor grades in math in 8th and 9th grades more likely to leave school entirely. Yet two new studies presented at the Association for Education Finance and Policy meeting here last month suggest that students who enter high school performing below average in math have a lower chance of getting a teacher who is well-qualified to teach math than do higher-achieving students. The problem, the research concludes, exacerbates gaps in teacher access between schools with different performance and wealth levels. In one study, Cara Jackson, a research assistant at the University of Maryland College Park, analyzed the math coursetaking and achievement of 12,900 9th graders at 730 high schools nationwide who were linked with their high school math teachers as part of the federal High School Longitudinal Study of 2009. Ms. Jackson calculated the odds of different students’ learning math in 9th grade from a “qualified” teacher, defined as one who: had earned at least a bachelor’s degree, with seven or more different courses taken in mathematics; was certified by the state to teach high school math; and had been teaching at least five years. Assignment Priorities Ms. Jackson found big differences in how high- and low-performing schools allocate teachers. “Within schools, a student’s access to qualified teachers wasn’t related to gender or race or socioeconomic status, or whether the student is an English-language learner,” she said. “It is related to whether the student is enrolled in special education or a low-level math class.” Ms. Jackson found that in schools considered high-performing on the basis of state math and language arts test scores, students in special education and those enrolled in low-level math classes are slightly more likely to get a qualified teacher than students in higher-level math classes. By contrast, in average and low-performing schools, it is the reverse. In low-achieving schools, special education students and those in low-level math classes are a third less likely to have a qualified math teacher than their higher-achieving peers. In 9th grade, Ms. Jackson found, high-performing math students in average or low-performing schools had about 10 percent “higher odds of getting a qualified math teacher, even after controlling for the level of math they are taking,” she said. “We might be seeing optimal matching here. If you have limited resources, you might put your teachers with the strongest content knowledge with the students in the highest-level math classes,” Ms. Jackson said, adding, “or it might just be a way to reward your best teachers. But that certainly makes it harder for low-achieving students to catch up to their peers.” The opposite may be true in highachieving schools, with administrators directing their best teachers to serve the most struggling students, but Ms. Jackson said it isn’t clear whether that is because those schools have more qualified math teachers or simply make assignments differently. Attending a wealthier or higherperforming school can boost a freshman’s odds of getting a qualified teacher, too. In the wealthiest fifth of schools, according to Ms. Jackson’s analysis, 54 percent of 9th grade students had access to qualified math teachers, while only 46 percent of students in the poorest 20 percent of schools did. For every standard deviation decrease in a school’s pov- erty level, its students are nearly 50 percent less likely to get a qualified math teacher. School Differences Similarly, in a separate report, researchers from the American Institutes of Research’s Center for Analysis of Longitudinal Data in Education Research, or calder, probed the differences in the value, as measured by assessment results, that teachers added at high-poverty and wealthy schools in Florida and North Carolina from 2000 to 2005. At schools with more than 70 percent of their students in poverty, the researchers found, teachers were, on average, less effective than those at schools with less concentrated poverty. Specifically, while highly effective teachers performed at about the same level in both high- and low-poverty schools, there was a much greater range of effectiveness among lower-performing teachers in high-poverty schools than in richer ones. Teachers in high-poverty schools were also generally less likely to have a graduate degree, or to be certified by the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards. “These differences are apparent even among new teachers,” said Philip M. Gleason, a senior fellow with Mathematica Policy Research who was not associated with either study. “This isn’t just a story of high-poverty schools having lots of turnover so more students have inexperienced teachers; that isn’t explaining what they are finding.” Rather, teachers at low-income schools did not improve professionally over their years of experience as much as their colleagues at wealthier schools, according to study coauthor Zeyu Xu, a calder senior research associate. “Why is the bottom of the teacher distribution lower in high-poverty schools?” Mr. Xu said. “It could be teachers are learning less in high-poverty schools, or that better teachers are likely to move out of high-poverty schools.” At the same time, Ms. Jackson’s research also found that, among schools with lower overall student achievement, those with good student behavior and principals with high expectations were more likely to give students of all stripes access to qualified teachers in math. In higher-achieving schools, student behavior was not linked to teacher availability. “This idea that there seems to be a stronger relationship between working conditions and access to qualified teachers in schools where overall academic achievement starts out low is pretty interesting,” Mr. Gleason said. Scan this tag with your smartphone for a link to “Student Access to Qualified High School Mathematics Teachers: A Multilevel Analysis,” at THE COUNCIL FOR ECONOMIC EDUCATION PRESENTS THE NATIONAL STANDARDS FOR FINANCIAL LITERACY HELPING YOU BUILD A FRAMEWORK TO TEACH FINANCIAL LITERACY IN YOUR SCHOOL The National Standards for Financial Literacy raise the bar for education. The six areas of knowledge that are fundamental to personal finance for students: - Earning Income Buying Goods and Services Using Credit Saving Financial Investing Protecting and Insuring Each standard emphasizes decision-making skills. Through the standards, students learn how their personal situations and preferences affect their financial decision making, while beginning to understand the trade-offs inherent in every choice they make. In the end, more informed choices lead to better choices. Learn more and download your free copy of the standards at

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Education Week - April 3, 2013

Education Week - April 3, 2013
Test Rules Differ Between Groups for Special Ed.
Consortia Struggle With ELL Provisions
FOCUS ON: ASSOCIATIONS: Leadership Shifts in Changing Field
Safety Plan for Schools: No Guns
Access to Common Exams Probed
News in Brief
Report Roundup
Gaps Found in Access to Qualified Math Teachers
DIGITAL DIRECTIONS: 3-D Printing Classes In a Virginia School Attract Global Visitors
Arizona Weighing ‘Performance Funding’ For Schools
L.A. ‘Incubator School’ to Teach Startup Tactics
Blogs of the Week
Cantor Raises Profile on Schooling Issues
Calif. Districts’ Waiver Bid Heads to Review Phase
Policy Brief
Congress Tweaks Special Education Funding Mandates
Marriage Arguments Hit Children’s Issues
ROBIN LAKE & ALEX MEDLER: Do Charter Schools Serve Special-Needs Students? The Answer Is Complicated
ARTHUR H. CAMINS: Assessing the Impact Of New Science Standards
LAURIE BARNOSKI: School Leaders: Make Sure Your Teachers Don’t Lose Heart
TopSchoolJobs Recruitment
DAVID BERNSTEIN: It’s Time to Mainstream Progressive Education

Education Week - April 3, 2013