Teachers Improve as They Gain Experience
Washington, DC and Palo Alto, CA, June 3, 2016—Teachers, on average, increase their effectiveness as they gain experience, and this improvement continues in the second and often third decade of their careers. This is a key finding from a comprehensive review of 30 studies analyzing the effect of teaching experience on student outcomes, released today by the Learning Policy Institute (LPI).
The report, Does Teaching Experience Increase Teacher Effectiveness? A Review of the Research, reexamines this question in light of recent studies using advanced research methods. It is co-authored by Senior Policy Advisor Tara Kini and Researcher and Policy Analyst Anne Podolsky. Among its key findings: as teachers gain experience throughout their careers, their students’ achievement gains increase. Although the steepest gains are in the first few years of teaching, teachers continue to gain in effectiveness throughout their careers, especially when they work in collegial work environments.
The report has important policy implications, since the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) requires districts and states to monitor and address teacher equity gaps, including the distribution of effective and experienced teachers. Its findings also highlight equity issues, as inexperienced teachers tend to be highly concentrated in under-served schools serving high-need students.
For example, as the report notes, students in the highest poverty schools are 50 percent more likely to have a teacher with less than four years of experience, compared to students in more affluent schools. Similarly, Black, Latino, American Indian, and Native-Alaskan students are three to four times more likely to attend schools with higher concentrations of first-year teachers than White students.
“Our analysis underscores the need for policies and practices that promote the equitable distribution of experienced teachers throughout our schools,” says Podolsky.
Through their research review and analysis, Kini and Podolsky also find that teachers improve at greater rates over time when they accumulate experience teaching at the same grade level, in the same subject area, or within the same school district, and when they work in supportive environments. Further, teachers who work with more seasoned peers are more effective than those whose colleagues are less experienced—evidence of the impact experienced teachers have on student learning beyond their own classrooms.
These findings suggest that policymakers at every level should invest in strategies to attract, retain, and develop talented teachers who have opportunities to learn and grow throughout their careers.
“This report shows that what is widely accepted as true in the business world—that individuals improve their performance with experience—is also true in teaching,” says Kini. “Teachers are more likely to stay in the profession if they receive high-quality training prior to and throughout their careers,” she adds. “In turn, students will reap academic benefits from learning from these experienced teachers.”
To arrange interviews with the report authors Tara Kini and Anne Podolsky, please contact Sue Dorfman at 617-513-6179 or [email protected].