Should we select teacher candidates for their smarts? asks the National Council on Teacher Quality Bulletin. If so, “can we raise the bar without endangering equitable access to strong teachers or limiting diversity?”
The cognitive skills of a nation’s teachers is linked to their students’ PISA performance, conclude Eric Hanushek and two Germany-based researchers. The study tried to control for “parental cognitive skills, a country’s educational culture, differences in student aptitude” and other factors.
It assumed places with higher public-sector salaries would draw more academically talented people to teaching. If that’s valid, then “raising average teacher cognitive skills by a standard deviation likely raises student performance in math by 20 percent of a standard deviation in math and 10 percent in reading.”
Another study suggests it’s possible to get more talented teachers into the classroom. Teachers’ academic aptitude has been rising in New York over the past 25 years, concludes a study by Hamilton Lankford and others.
In the late 1990’s, almost a third of New York’s newly certified teachers were drawn from the bottom-third of the SAT scale. Beginning in 1998, the state tightened requirements on teacher preparation programs, eliminated temporary teaching licenses (which tended to be awarded to low-scoring individuals), and allowed selective alternative routes (e.g., Teach For America and TNTP) to begin operating. By 2010, more teachers were being drawn from the top-third of the SAT distribution than any other group.
The sharpest rise came in SAT scores of new teachers at the most disadvantaged schools, especially in New York City.
Average SAT scores rose more for new black and Latino teachers than for whites and Asian-Americans. Yet the state’s teaching force become more diverse.