Once again a group of researchers have laid claim that teacher education and certification have little positive effect on student achievement. In a study published by the Hoover Institute, Tom Kane, Doug Staiger, and Jonah Rockoff found that while traditionally prepared and certified teachers produce higher student achievement scores at first, alternatively certified and uncertified teachers catch up by end of year three. In a slanted news story, published yesterday by the New York Sun (November 21, 2006), researchers claimed that policymakers should worry less about teacher education and certification and more about firing ineffective teachers in their first few years of teaching. However, what was not noted was the following:
1. By the end of Year 3 alternative certification teachers, if they remain in teaching, actually have been trained in “how to teach” and have earned a master’s degree from schools of education;
2. Most of the alternatively certified teachers had left by Year 3, after proving less effective with their students for the two years they taught; and
3. The much higher attrition of alternative certification teachers leaves most students with a revolving door of new and untrained novices, and in doing so, reifies gross inequities in the our public school system.
In a previous study, drawing on the same database, researchers concluded that there was more variation within the traditional and alternative pathways into teaching than between them. This means there are effective multiple ways to prepare teachers. However, these studies do not at all suggest that teachers do not need extensive preparation before they begin teaching. And these studies do not reveal the horrific working conditions teachers often face — especially in New York City — rendering fruitless whatever preparation they received. The Hoover-funded researchers called for “getting rid of teachers who perform badly during probationary periods.” Yet, their data actually suggest that policymakers should find out what kinds of teacher preparation and induction supports novices need and make deeper investments in them.