EdMedia Commons Archive

Do Teacher Development Dollars Deliver Results?

The Obama administration is pledging a billion dollars  to bolster the STEM teaching profession by creating an elite corps of educators across all 50 states, but have similar efforts in the past  shown any positive results?

The White House’s proposal centers on enlisting the help of 2,500—and eventually 10,000—expert science and math teachers to serve as lead instructors in their districts. Through professional development and other avenues, this cadre of educators will work to retain other STEM teachers and help them improve in the classroom.

Supercharging the teaching profession has been a top education policy initiative for the last few presidents: There already are roughly 80 different teacher improvement programs within the federal government. Within Title II of the ESEA, some three billion dollars flow into teacher and principal professional development channels, but the evidence that all this investment improves student learning is scant. The Southwest Regional Educational Laboratory can point to just nine out of 1,300 studies that are rigorous enough to suggest these teacher improvement projects work.

And studies are mixed when it comes to the impact of teachers who are board certified—one of the most recognized marks of an accomplished teacher. Studies from 2006 and 2008 suggest student outcomes don’t change when looking at teachers who are and aren’t certified. A more comprehensive report from 2008 suggests there is a lift in student outcomes, but board-certified teachers do not do enough to train and inspire other instructors. Studies also find that once they receive their certification, teachers tend to leave for schools with wealthier students.

Assuming Congress approves this latest big-dollar effort (partisanship has been pronounced lately, you see?) do we know enough about what works and doesn’t to think STEM teachers can be trained quickly and kept in the profession? With so much private-sector and philanthropic money pouring into the STEM fields at the K-12 level—CTEq, 100Kin10, etc.—will reporters and evaluators have a fair shake at assessing whether these efforts are proving their worth? Weigh in. 

Photo credit: Flickr/thewomensmuseum

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This post originally appeared on EWA’s now-defunct online community, EdMedia Commons. Old content from EMC will appear in the Ed Beat archives.