EDUCATION

Los Angeles' Inexperienced Teachers More Likely To Be Assigned To Students Behind In Math

11/19/2012 03:33 pm ET

Inexperienced teachers in the Los Angeles Unified School District are more likely to be assigned to students who on average are six months behind their peers in math, a new study has found.

According to the Los Angeles Times, the study by the Strategic Data Project, which is affiliated with Harvard University’s Center for Education Policy, also determined that teachers vary considerably in their effectiveness. Top educators provide their students the equivalent of eight additional months of instruction a year compared to their less effective counterparts.

The report’s authors analyzed the performance of nearly one-third of the district’s teachers based primarily on students' standardized math test scores from 2005 through 2011 in grades three through eight. Among its findings were that teacher performance after two years is a solid predictor of future effectiveness.

EdSource reports that new teachers hired through Teach for America were found to have a positive effect — equal to two months of extra instruction in math — compared with other novice teachers. Those hired through the district’s Career Ladder program, which encourages paraprofessionals to become teachers, provide the equivalent of one month extra instruction.

About two-thirds of Teach for America teachers, however, leave the district after their two-year commitment, while more Career Ladder teachers continue as educators.

The study also indicated the performance of math teachers improved quickly in the first five years, then leveled off, according to the L.A. Times. Additionally, those with advanced academic degrees were no more effective than those without, though teachers pursuing such degrees are paid more by the district. However, EdSource reports teachers with a National Board Certification — only about 4 percent of LAUSD teachers — outperform their peers by roughly two months of additional math instruction and one month of additional English language arts instruction over the course of a year.

Over the past four years, thousands of LAUSD teachers have been laid off to help close a huge budget gap. Because of seniority rules, newer teachers went first, most of them located in poorer neighborhoods. The Strategic Data Project study found that the teachers who were laid off due to budget cuts were about as effective as teachers who retained their jobs, according to EdSource.

Drew Furedi, who oversees the district's teacher training, says he's deeply concerned about some of the findings and describes the study as a call to action, the Associated Press reports.

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