Study: "Bad teachers" don’t cause achievement gap

By Andrew Pillow

The achievement gap is always a hot topic in education. One of the central beliefs behind the achievement gap is the idea that children from low income and minority backgrounds have less access to quality teachers. A new study challenges that notion.

Mathematica Policy Research determined that low income and high income children for the most part have equal access to quality teachers, therefore, quality teaching or lack there-of can’t be to blame for the gap.

Huffington Post sums up the study:

“The study looked at effectiveness ratings for English language arts and math teachers in 26 districts over the course of five years. These teachers worked with students in the fourth through eighth grades…
Overall, researchers only found small differences in the average effectiveness ratings given to teachers working with low-income and affluent students. The average teacher of a low-income student rates around the 50th percentile, while the average teacher of a more wealthy student rates around the 51st percentile.”

This conclusion led a researcher on the project, Eric Isenberg, to the conclusion that people need to look elsewhere for the cause of the achievement gap.

“I think the conventional wisdom is where you have a school with lower test scores, it must be the school or teachers,” he said. “It might be surprising that when we actually measure this, it’s not that the teachers is are actually less effective. Something else must be happening.”

Read more here. (via: Huffington Post)

Read the full study here.


Andrew Pillow

Andrew is a technology teacher at KIPP Indy College Prep. He is graduate of the University of Kentucky and a Teach for America Alum. Andrew just recently finished his commitment as a Teach Plus Policy fellow, and he is looking forward to putting the skills he's learned to good use. Andrew has written for several publications in the past on a wide variety of topics but will be sticking to education for his role on Indy/Ed.