Newsflash: Teacher Experience Bolsters Student Success

04 December 2007

Ryan, a/k/a "The School Policy Nerd" over at I Thought a Think, recently posted about the Washington School Funding Taskforce. But there's more over at KOMO 4 news in Seattle regarding findings about what influences student success most: teacher experience or teacher degrees?

Combining the results of 15 studies on teacher pay, the researchers found a dramatic improvement in student achievement between one and five years of teacher experience and a more gradual boost in the years following. Student achievement in these studies was mostly tracked through scores on standardized reading or math tests.

A similar analysis of studies concerning teachers getting graduate degrees found the degrees seemed to have little or no impact on student outcomes.

The report makes a preliminary recommendation that any changes in the way teachers are paid should emphasize financial rewards for experience rather than higher pay for teachers with graduate degrees...

The task force has until early 2009 to make its recommendations, in part because that's when a state court plans to hear arguments on an education funding lawsuit brought by school districts and education organizations across the state.

Researchers at the Washington State Institute for Public Policy are still working on their analysis of the effectiveness of other financial incentives for teachers, such as bonuses for completing a national certification program; proposals for extra pay for teaching in high-poverty, low-performing schools; or higher pay for teaching certain subjects like math and science.

The institute also will study the effectiveness of voluntary all-day kindergarten, smaller classes, professional development for all staff, focused instructional support, and extended day and school year options.

My original reaction was "Duh." in terms of more experience in the classroom leads to be better success for kids. Would it not be true for nearly any job that the more time you spend learning it, the better you get at it? But then I also thought about the "dead wood" teachers that litter classrooms---the ones who have quit learning and growing as professionals. Is there a point where the effect experience has maxes out...perhaps even declines? As for degrees, I also agree that more letters after one's name does not make someone a better teacher.

As it stands now, the state salary schedule for teachers is based on both: experience and education. What's the answer, I wonder. Do we continue to pay beginning teachers paltry salaries because they're not effective yet? Do we continue to have a maximum pay rate, regardless of the number of years a teacher has been in the classroom? As it stands now, someone with 30 years experience makes the same as someone with 16 years experience.

I'm glad Ryan is willing to tape and watch these hearings. I might not be as interested in the small pieces of process that he is, but the outcomes are definitely worth watching.

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