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Low ability teachers, low ability students?

[cross-posted at LeaderTalk]

Here are some research findings for you…

Smart people leave teaching?

Of the teachers who had high college entrance exam scores, almost a fourth of them leave the profession within a decade. In contrast, only about 11% of the individuals with low scores leave the teaching profession within 10 years. Similarly, more than a third of the teachers with low college entrance exam scores are still teaching a decade after they started, while only 15% of the teachers with high scores are still teaching ten years after they began (Anderson & Carroll, 2008; see also Guarino, Santibanez, & Daley (2006), who note similar results for university selectiveness and certification exam scores). In other words, the percentage of teachers with lower academic ability increases in schools over time. The brightest go elsewhere.

Teacher smarts matter?

  • Higher teacher ACT scores positively influences student reading scores (Ferguson & Ladd, 1996)
  • Teachers’ verbal ability influences student performance (Greenwald, Hedges, & Laine, 1996)
  • [S]tudents learn more from teachers with higher test scores. Test scores matter…” (Wayne & Youngs, 2003)
  • Discuss among yourselves

    Let’s assume that, generally speaking, these studies are correct: 1) smart people are less likely to stay in teaching (thus resulting in a concentration of teachers with lower academic ability), and 2) the academic ability of teachers impacts student learning outcomes. Now what?


    • Anderson, S. E., & Carroll, C. D. (2008). Teacher career choices: Timing of teacher careers among 19921993 Bachelor’s degree recipients (NCES 2008-153). Washington, DC: United States Department of Education.
    • Ferguson, R.F., & Ladd, H.F. (1996). How and why money matters: An analysis of Alabama schools. In H.F. Ladd (Ed.), Holding schools accountable. Washington, DC: Brookings Institution, 265-298.
    • Greenwald, R., Hedges, L.V., & Laine, R.D. (1996, Autumn). The effect of school resources on student achievement. Review of Educational Research, 66(3), 361-396.
    • Guarino, C. M., Santibanez, L., & Daley, G. A. (2006). Teacher recruitment and retention: A review of the recent empirical literature. Review of Educational Research, 76(2), 173-208.
    • Wayne, A. J., & Youngs, P. (2003). Teacher characteristics and student achievement gains: A review. Review of Educational Research, 73(1), 89-122.

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