Certified teachers are ‘trivially better’

Thanks to Eduwonk’s prodding, the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards released an overview of a study by value-added guru William Sanders concluding board-certified teachers don’t produce greater academic gains for their students than non-certified teachers.

In an Education Week story, Sanders put his conclusions in context.

Mr. Sanders, who manages the value-added assessment and research center at the private SAS Institute in Cary, N.C., said one way to think about the implications of the study would be to envision two teachers with identical experience and education applying for the same job—one holding national board certification and one not. To choose the board-certified teacher over the teacher without the credential would be “only trivially better than a coin flip,” the researcher said.

NBPTS hasn’t put the whole study on its web site, Eduwonk observes, and the “overview” tries to downplay the study’s conclusions by criticizing its methodology and sample size.

Board certification requires “an extensive series of performance-based assessments, which includes teaching portfolios, student work samples, videotapes or DVDs and thorough analyses of the candidate’s teaching and the students’ learning. The process involves written exercises that probe the depth of a candidate’s subject-matter knowledge, as well as his or her understanding of how to teach those subjects.” The process is voluntary. Board-certified teachers typically get a significant bonus from their school districts.

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Comments

  1. Twill00 says:

    1) “Trivially better” is still “better”.

    2) It may be that the particular self-selected people who engage in certification are, as a group, no better than the general cross-section of all teachers. They may be more driven by money, or desire for recognition, or more able to stand bureacracy (sp?) but otherwise no different in performance.

    3) One wonders if there is a simpler process to determine “significantly better”.

  2. Wayne Martin says:

    > Board-certified teachers typically get a
    > significant bonus from their school districts.

    Over a twenty-five year timeframe, this could be $50K or more.

  3. Ryan Grant says:

    So the question becomes whether it makes sense to put that much money into teachers who might not be that much better.

  4. esunola says:

    I was surprised to see that they included the finding that the “amount of variability among teachers with the same NBPTS Certification Status is considerably larger than the differences between teachers of different Status.” Since the inter-group differences aren’t that significant, this is a pretty negative study result.

  5. “Trivially better” is still “better”.

    Only if the difference is statistically significant. Which it apparently was in some categories but not others, per the study summary.

  6. The only thing I want to know is if the difference in pay is reflected in a difference in the outcome?

  7. Wayne Martin says:

    > The only thing I want to know is if the
    > difference in pay is reflected in a
    > difference in the outcome?

    Probably impossible to know. Schools are not likely to make that information known, even if they were able to make such accessments themselves.

  8. Wayne Martin wrote:

    Probably impossible to know.

    Which means that it’s the difference in teaching skill that’s not measureable, or that you feel isn’t measureable, not the difference in salary. That’s measureable to a high degree of precision.

    Schools are not likely to make that information known, even if they were able to make such accessments themselves.

    Weeeeell, that kind of depends on what’s important to the people who run the school, doesn’t it?

    If there’s no value in having a demonstrably superior teaching staff then there isn’t much reason to ensure that that’s the staff that’s hired. So the trick, it seems to me, would be to define a situation in which the management of a school would be strongly motivated to hire a first-class teaching staff and accept no substitutes.