Giving Compass' Take:

Research suggests that the value and quality of teachers will affect students' achievement rates. They found that experienced, well credentialed teachers apply to higher paying jobs which are usually in schools with white, middle class, high-performing students which significantly puts low income, non-white students at a disadvantage.

• How can we close this achievement gap and encourage an equal distribution of high-quality teachers to all kinds of schools?  Can outside organizations help provide teaching aides or resources to make up for the gap in teacher quality?

Read about other causes for achievement gaps such as race and family income.

Differences in the quality of elementary and middle school teachers can explain much of why disadvantaged students perform worse in math than their whiter, more affluent schoolmates, according to a working paper circulated by the Center for Analysis of Longitudinal Data in Education Research (CALDER).

The study, conducted by CALDER director and University of Washington professor Dan Goldhaber, synthesizes two separate research topics: the influence of teacher quality on student achievement, and the inequities in access to excellent teachers that persist along racial and class lines.

Roughly one-sixth of white students’ edge over their minority classmates in eighth-grade math tests is due to simply having better teachers, the authors conclude, and over one-fifth of the gap between poor and non-poor students is also traceable to teacher quality.

So experienced, well-credentialed teachers — and those who boast high value-added scores — cluster in more desirable job placements; perversely, those are often in schools with greater numbers of white, middle-class, and high-performing students, who are already succeeding by most academic standards. The question is: How does this inequitable distribution of teacher skill affect how students learn?

Ultimately, they find the importance of teacher quality to be significant. If black, Hispanic, and Native American students and white students had equivalent teachers in grades four through eight, gaps in eighth-grade math performance would shrink by 16 percent; gaps between students based on eligibility for free and reduced-price lunch (a common measure of student poverty) would be 21 percent smaller.

But a lot depends on how teacher value added is determined, and specifically whether measures of value added focus on individual student performance or account for classroom characteristics.

Read the full article about teacher quality and student achievement  by Kevin Mahnken at Home |The 74