An ETS study, How Teaching Matters, finds that teacher preparation and development matters. It finds, not surprisingly, that subject matter knowledge is important. Specifically, the study finds that student achievement increases by 40 percent of a grade level in both math and science when teachers have a major or minor in the subject taught.
The study also concludes that subject matter alone, while necessary for student achievement, is not the only factor necessary to help student achievement increase. A major finding of How Teaching Matters is that classroom practices greatly influence student achievement, and that "more attention needs to be paid" to improving classroom practices. The study recommends that teacher candidates and teachers focus on effective classroom practices. Student achievement increases when students have teachers who are trained in developing higher order thinking skills, who are skilled at implementing hands-on experiences in the classroom, and who are trained to work with special populations.
The study found that students of teachers who conduct hands-on learning activities outperform their peers by more than 70 percent of a grade level in math and 40 percent of a grade level in science. Similarly, students whose teachers emphasize higher-order thinking skills outperform their peers by about 40 percent of a grade level. In addition, the study showed that students whose teachers have received training in working with special populations outperform their peers by more than a full grade level.
This finding supports the need for content-specific pedagogy, the "how to teach" portion of teacher development, and dispels the idea that only subject matter knowledge is necessary in order to teach effectively. Study after study has found that teacher preparation increases teacher effectiveness in the classroom; this study reinforces earlier studies by clearly aligning effective classroom practices with increased student achievement. Candidates must focus on how to teach specific subjects effectively. In addition, candidates must receive training in working effectively with special populations. The study indicates that this training helps teachers teach all students more effectively.
NCATE is pleased to see empirical validation of its standards. NCATE standards require accredited institutions to ensure that candidates who will teach a subject matter discipline attain competence in their chosen subject matter area. The standards emphasize clinical practice and content-specific pedagogy, so that teacher candidates learn and are able to apply effective classroom practices. In addition, all candidates at NCATE accredited schools receive training in working with special populations, which the study indicates, is a factor in increasing student achievement.
Read the Study