Teacher Quality

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Teacher quality is the most important factor in helping students learn. Quality is a multi-leveled and evolving concept that has taken on new meaning in the past few decades. The achievement gap and consistent slips in average American performance in education has led to a host of professional development initiatives aimed at supporting the learning context for all students. However, this is putting a great deal of pressure on educators, and more must be done to support their development if this initiative is to have the long term success student’s appear to need. 

The Need for Quality

In the multitude of new approaches to closing the achievement gap in today’s students, teacher quality has emerged as one of the most powerful forces capable of improvement. While teacher compensation is considerable (in 2002 alone, the United States invested $192 billion in teacher pay and benefits ¬1), the new requirements for professional development are largely the responsibility of the teachers to attain. Also, researchers emphasize, given the size of this investment, there is remarkably little research to guide such critical decisions as whom to hire, retain, and promote. In the absence of a strong, robust, and deep body of research, the debate in this field is largely ideological. (Rice)

Much research has been and is being done on what makes a quality teacher, and the methodologies to examine teacher quality are currently under debate. However, the structure of teacher quality has emerged as including:

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Teacher preparation has become more than just going to school, earning a degree, and becoming certified. Many next generation teachers are taking on extra development during their time in school to prepare for the demands of the classroom. Staying up on continuous development and the best-evidenced based practices coming out of research is another job on top of the job of teaching. Unfortunately consistently the neediest students receive the least qualified teachers, which represents a fundamental sense of poor expectation for this demographic. However, studies on underprepared teachers working with at-risk students vividly demonstrate how we are failing our most vulnerable students. Researchers, after randomly assigning students in 17 high-poverty schools to a Teach for America (TFA) teacher or a non-TFA teacher, administered a standardized test. They then compared the performance of the students of TFA and non-TFA teachers… The Center for Teaching Quality noted in its analysis: “the findings illustrate the failed teaching policies that plague our nation’s urban schools.” The student achievement of both TFA teachers and the control group was “abysmal.” (National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education)

No one denies that teaching is a hard job, but unsuccessful teachers often blame their students rather than look at how they could have done to improve their quality. This is simply too easy of an excuse. Research has found, generally, the more emergency permit teachers there are in a school, the lower the school’s achievement. This phenomenon is examined in the context of other contributors to student achievement, such as socio-economic status and school size….Researchers and policymakers can now clearly connect student achievement (at the school level) with a number of other variables, including the percentage of underqualified teachers. Seeing these connections…can be shocking. (National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education)

 Many do not realize that large gaps in quality exist for teacher training and education, but this is only natural. Since it is clear that non-quality teachers harm students’ development a few elements should be standardized for teacher certification and employment:

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The evolving matrix of teacher quality is a collaborative web which includes policy makers, administration, the teachers, those who educate teachers, and those who assess and support teachers. In some contexts a teacher may not be able to succeed with challenging students, but another teacher might who has different skills and background. However, no matter what teachers must be more supported in this effort. There is only so much an individual can do, and so many hours in a day. Research emphasizes, “Given that many dimensions of teacher characteristics matter—preparation in both pedagogic and subject content, credentials, experience, and test scores—the findings from the literature imply that there is no merit in large-scale elimination of all credentialing requirements” (Rice). Finding and creating innovative and proactive ways to support teacher quality must also be a collaborative effort. If too much is left on the shoulders of the teachers they may lose the 


Teacher quality is an essential element to student success, but the foundation for that support is currently disjointed. Teachers are sometimes being asked to do too much without the support they need, but new means to give this support may be evolving to help teachers meet the challenges of contemporary diverse students. Teachers are some of the most important leaders for the next generation, and supporting their development is supporting the future of America. Quality is evolving as the need for it does, but the unity between funding, assessment, and implementation is a work in progress.


1: Fact retrieved from: http://www.epi.org/publication/books_teacher_quality_execsum_intro/

2: Chart retrieved from: http://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/ED520769.pdf

3: Chart retrieved from: http://www.ncate.org/LinkClick.aspx?fileticket=JFRrmWqa1jU=

4: Chart retrieved from: http://catalyst-chicago.org/2006/12/chart-where-less-qualified-teachers-land/

Works Cited

Goe, Laura, and Leslie M. Stickler. “Teacher Quality and Student Achievement: Making the Most of Recent Research.” National Comprehensive Center for Teacher Quality, Mar. 2008. Retrieved from: http://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/ED520769.pdf

National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education. “What Makes a Teacher Effective?” ncate.org, 2016. Retrieved from: http://www.ncate.org/LinkClick.aspx?fileticket=JFRrmWqa1jU=

Rice, Jennifer King. “Teacher Quality.” Epi.org, 2003. Retrieved from: http://www.epi.org/publication/books_teacher_quality_execsum_intro/