Linda Darling Hammond
Deborah Loewenberg Ball
Prepared for the National Education Goals Panel
Teaching for High Standards:
What Policymakers Need to Know and Be Able to Do
The recent emphasis on raising standards has drawn Americans' attention to what makes a difference for student learning. The September, 1996 report of the National Commission on Teaching and America's Future (the Commission), What Matters Most: Teaching for America's Future. followed shortly by Pursuing Excellence. the report of the Third International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS), sharpened this discussion by pointing to the close relationship between students' achievement and the knowledge, skills, and practices of their teachers. According to these reports, what teachers know and can do is crucial to what students learn. Three policy implications follow:
1. The recruitment and retention of good teachers is key to the improvement of our schools.
2. A strong teaching force depends on serious attention to the preparation and ongoing learning of teachers.
3. School reform cannot succeed unless it focuses on creating the conditions -- including the curriculum contexts -- in which teachers can teach well.
In this paper, we discuss the relationship between teachers' knowledge and students' performace; summarize what research suggests about the kinds of teacher education and professional development needed to help teachers learn to teach to high standards; and describe what states are doing to provide these opportunities for teacher learning, and with what effects.
The Relationship between Teacher Knowledge and Student Achievement
For many decades the United States education system has tried to improve student achievement by tinkering with various levers in the great machinery of schooling: New management schemes, curriculum packages, testing policies, centralization initiatives, decentralization initiatives, and a wide array of regulations and special programs have been tried, all with the same effect. Reforms, we have learned over and over again, are rendered effective or ineffective by the knowledge, skills, and commitments of those in schools. Without know-how and buy-in, innovations do not succeed. Neither can they succeed without appropriate supports, including such resources as materials, time, and opportunities to learn.
Furthermore, studies discover again and again that teacher expertise is the most important factor in determining student achievement, followed by the smaller but consistently positive influences of small schools and small class sizes. That is, teachers who know alot about teaching and learning and who work in environments that allow them to know students well are the
critical elements of successful learning.
How does teachers' expertise affect student learning. Teacher expertise -- or what teachers know and can do -- affects all the core tasks of teaching. For example, what teachers understand, both about content and students, shapes how judiciously they select from texts and other materials and how effectively they present material in class. Their skill in assessing their students' progress depends also on how deeply they themselves know the content, and how well they can understand and interpret students' talk and written work. Nothing can fully compensate for the weakness of a teacher who lacks the knowledge and skill needed to help students master the curriculum.
Measures of teachers' education, certification, knowledge, and experience have most often been the primary sources of large scale data on teacher expertise. 1 In an analysis of the most extensive data base since the Coleman study, Ronald Ferguson found that teachers' expertise (as measured by teacher education, scores on a licensing examination, and experience) accounted for far more variation in students' achievement than any other factor (about 40% of the total), and that every additional dollar spent on more highly qualified teachers netted greater increases in student achievement than did any other use of school resources. 2 The effects were so strong, and the variations in teacher expertise were so great, that the large disparities in achievement between black and white students were almost entirely accounted for by differences in the qualifications of their teachers. An additional contribution to student achievement was made by small schools and lower pupil-teacher ratios. In combination, well-prepared teachers working in personalized environments contributed as much to student outcomes as socioeconomic factors. (See figure 1 .)
Ferguson's findings closely mirror those of a recent review of 60 studies by Greenwald, Hedges, and Laine, 3 which found that teacher education, ability, and experience, along with small schools and lower teacher-pupil ratios, are associated with significant increases in student achievement. In their estimate of the achievement gains associated with various uses of funds, additional spending on teacher education outweighed other variables as the most productive investment for schools.
Many other studies have come to similar conclusions. For example, a study of high- and low-achieving schools in New York City with similar student populations found that differences in teacher qualifications accounted for more than 90% of the variation in student achievement in reading and mathematics at all grade levels tested. 4 A Tennessee
Average Proportion of Variance in
Student Test Scores (Grades 1-7)