When it comes to teaching, there’s no substitute for experience, according to a new EDC study that tracked the qualifications of 37 high school science teachers across the Boston Public Schools. The study found that classroom teaching experience is a stronger indicator of first-rate science instruction than other qualifications, in particular the “highly qualified teacher” (HQT) status as determined by the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act.
NCLB defines a highly qualified teacher as one with full certification and a college degree in the subject he or she teaches, as well as demonstrated content mastery. The law mandates that all classrooms be staffed with highly qualified teachers, though this goal has proven difficult to meet, particularly for high school science.
According to lead researcher Abigail Jurist Levy, the results of the study raise questions about the reliance on HQT status alone as a measure of effective teaching. It also points to the importance of ongoing professional development for inexperienced teachers, as on-the-job learning and retention appear to be key factors in developing an effective teacher workforce.
“We certainly wouldn’t argue against having highly qualified teachers in the classroom, but this policy does not guarantee good instruction,” Levy says.
The study grows out of a five-year effort to improve science teaching across the Boston Public Schools, led by the district and university partners and funded by the National Science Foundation. EDC directs the research component of the initiative.
Originally published on October 23, 2008