Research Ties Teacher’s Alma Mater to Student Performance

The academic progress of public school students can be traced, in part, to where their teachers went to college, according to new research, writes Donna Gordon Blankinship for the Associated Press.

But the University of Washington Center for Education Data & Research director, Dan Goldhaber, cautioned that the study is just a first step toward determining what kind of training best prepares teachers for excellence in the classroom, wanting to take emphasis off where teacher’s trained.

This is exactly the kind of information U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan would like every school to have access to and that’s why he recently announced a new program to use federal dollars to pay for similar research, writes Blankinship.

Where teachers are credentialed explains a small part of the variation of teacher effectiveness, Goldhaber said, with the best way to pick out a great teacher still being a visit to his or her classroom.

“Improving teacher training has the potential to greatly enhance the productivity of the teacher workforce,” Goldhaber wrote in the report.

Duncan announced his new initiatives earlier this month to identify the best teacher-preparation programs and encourage those less successful to improve by linking student test scores back to teachers and their schools of education.

Carrie Black, a middle school math teacher in Rochester, Washington, says she could have used a lot more time practicing her skills before taking over a classroom on her own and she doesn’t think she could ever had learned enough about how to keep control in class, writes Blankinship.

Black trained at City University before doing graduate work in middle school math at online college Walden University. Walden was not counted in the study.

Goldhaber’s study ranked the private City University right in the middle of teacher prep programs, with a score closer to the top schools for math — University of Washington, University of Puget Sound and Pacific Lutheran, Seattle Pacific and Western Washington — than to the schools at the bottom of the math list: Northwest University, Antioch University, St. Mary’s University, Seattle University and the Evergreen State College, writes Blankinship.

Even though her school did well in the study, Black said she would, in retrospect, like to see changes in teacher preparation programs, including more hands on training.

“Classroom management is a hard one to teach,” said Black, a regional Washington teacher of the year last year. “It is like trying to teach someone how to ride a bike by reading instructions. It is different with each class.”

Black said classes don’t prepare teachers for the stress of the job or for the amount of work they’ll do at home each night.