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Teacher Effects and the Achievement Gap: Do Teacher and Teaching Quality Influence the Achievement Gap Between Black and White and High- and Low-SES Students in the Early Grades?


by Laura Desimone & Daniel A. Long — 2010

Background/Context: Although there is relative agreement on the pattern of the achievement gap, attributing changes in the gap to schooling is less clear. Our study contributes to understanding potential teacher and teaching effects on achievement and inequality.

Purpose/Objective/Research Question/Focus of Study: We intend our work to contribute to understanding the school’s role in addressing the achievement gap. We investigate the extent to which specific aspects of teacher quality (degree in math, experience, certification, math courses, and professional development) and teaching quality (time spent on math instruction and conceptual, basic procedural, and advanced procedural instruction) influence mathematics achievement growth and the achievement gap between White and Black students and low- and high-SES students in kindergarten and first grade.

Research Design, Data Collection and Analysis: In this secondary analysis, we examine the first four waves of data from the National Center for Education Statistics’ Early Childhood Longitudinal Study (2000), a nationally representative longitudinal sample of students who were kindergartners in 1998. We use multilevel growth models to estimate relationships.

Findings/Results: We found evidence that lower achieving students are initially assigned to teachers who emphasize basic instruction, and higher achieving students are assigned teachers who emphasize more advanced instruction. The use of advanced procedural instruction and time spent on math were related to achievement growth for traditionally disadvantaged populations—Black students and low-SES students. Other types of instruction and teacher quality variables were not related to achievement growth.

Conclusions/Recommendations: We found weak or no effects for teacher quality and type of instruction, which suggests that these aspects of teacher and teaching quality may operate as sorting variables. This may explain a part of the findings of past cross-sectional and gain studies that would likely interpret correlations between teachers and teaching as part of the effect of instruction. We found that low achievers tend to get teachers who spend less time on instruction, a variable we found significant in influencing achievement growth. If, as our study found, time on instruction matters, and disadvantaged students are more likely to get the weakest teachers who spend less time on instruction, we can identify an area in which schooling exacerbates the achievement gap but has the potential to ameliorate it.



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Cite This Article as: Teachers College Record Volume 112 Number 12, 2010, p. 3024-3073
http://www.tcrecord.org ID Number: 16047, Date Accessed: 10/23/2017 3:57:58 AM

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About the Author
  • Laura Desimone
    University of Pennsylvania
    E-mail Author
    LAURA M. DESIMONE is associate professor, Graduate School of Education, University of Pennsylvania. Her research focuses on the effects of policies on teaching and learning, policy implementation, and improving surveys for use in policy research. She studies teacher’s professional development, induction and mentoring, accountability, and teacher quality issues. Recent publications include: Desimone, L., Smith, T., & Frisvold, D. (in press). How similar are student and teacher reports of classroom instruction? Educational Policy; and Desimone, L. (in press). How can we best measure teacher’s professional development and its effects on teachers and students? Educational Researcher.
  • Daniel Long
    Wesleyan University
    DANIEL LONG is assistant professor of sociology at Wesleyan University. His research focuses on sociology of education and social stratification. He has researched trends in educational attainment among different racial ethnic/groups in the United States; researched how school and teacher characteristics influence the growth of student achievement in elementary school; and examined international achievement tests to estimate the effects of private schools and school resources. His recent publications include “Equality of Educational Opportunity: A 40-Year Retrospective” with Adam Gamoran; and “Whither the Virtuous Cycle: Past and Future Trends in Black–White Inequality in Educational Attainment” with Adam Gamoran and Sean Kelly.
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