Teacher Experience Really Does Matter

Posted by Education Week on June 15, 2015

That 5th-year teaching plateau: plain wrong

The notion that teachers only improve in their first three years is deeply ingrained in K-12 policy discussions, but two new studies suggest teaching effectiveness increases for at least the first decade, reports Stephen Sawchuck for Education Week. Pinning down the connection between a teacher’s experience and effectiveness has been methodologically challenging, because of difficulties in comparing student cohorts taught by teachers with different training and backgrounds. Cross-sectional comparisons have found few performance differences between early- and later-career teachers. However, a forthcoming study in the Journal of Public Economics looks at 200,000 student test scores linked to 3,500 teachers from an unnamed urban district, analyzing those data through three methods that each rely on different baseline assumptions about capturing growth in teacher effectiveness. Under all three, researchers found teachers’ capacity to boost student achievement grew well beyond the three- to five-year mark. A different paper by the National Center for Analysis of Longitudinal Data in Education Research analyzed records from 1.2 million students in North Carolina from 2007-2011, including absences, disciplinary offenses, and test scores. Researchers found teachers gained in effectiveness for at least 12 years, and as they gained experience, were linked to lower rates of student absenteeism. Both studies portray teacher effectiveness as a mutable characteristic that develops, rather than a static one formed the first few years teaching.


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