Academic journal article Teacher Education Quarterly

Principals' Perceptions of the Causes of Teacher Ineffectiveness in Different Secondary Subjects

Academic journal article Teacher Education Quarterly

Principals' Perceptions of the Causes of Teacher Ineffectiveness in Different Secondary Subjects

Article excerpt

The performance of the teachers in our nation's schools has long been a concern among educators, parents, and policymakers, but recent educational reform initiatives have put issues of teacher quality in the spotlight. For example, the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 requires states to ensure that all classrooms be staffed by a "highly qualified" teacher. Alternative teacher-certification programs have proliferated, with the goal of increasing the supply of teachers and enhancing their quality. It has also been suggested that teacher certification be deregulated so that college graduates who lack course work in education could qualify for a teaching certificate (Ballou & Podgursky, 1998; Finn, 1999; Finn & Madigan, 2001; Gross, 1999; Hess & Finn, 2004; Hirsch, 1996; Kanstoroom & Finn, 1999; Kramer, 1991; Podgursky, 2005; Ravitch, 2000; Sykes, 1995). The question arises as to the efficacy of these initiatives for enhancing teacher quality.

Such a determination requires that the fundamentals of teaching competence be identified, since a shortfall in any of these fundamentals constitutes a potential cause of teacher ineffectiveness and thus a threat to teacher quality. The fundamentals of teaching competence can be categorized as encompassing content knowledge (expertise in the subject being taught, also known as "subject-matter knowledge") and pedagogical knowledge (expertise in teaching strategies and tactics, typically taught in teacher-education courses) (Shulman, 1987).

Arguments as to which of these fundamentals comprises the greater threat to teacher quality are abundant in the literatures in psychology and education, among other places (Ball, 1990; Darling-Hammond, 2005; Darling-Hammond & Bransford, 2005; Finn, 1999; Finn & Madigan, 2001; Gross, 1999; Hess & Finn, 2004; Hirsch, 1996; Kanstoroom & Finn, 1999; Kramer, 1991; Ma, 1999; Null & Ravitch, 2006; Podgursky, 2005; Ravitch, 2000; Sykes, 1995). But since determining whether content knowledge or pedagogical knowledge more often causes teacher ineffectiveness is a question best resolved empirically, teacher performance must be evaluated. This evaluation has proven contentious, and it seems clear that foolproof means to assess teacher performance remain elusive (Brandt, 1996; Copland, 2001; Darling-Hammond, 1986; Ellet & Teddie, 2003; Frase & Streshly, 1994; Goldstein, 2004; Haefle, 1993; Peel & Inkson, 1993; Sullivan, Mousley, & Gervasoni, 2000; Wayne & Youngs, 2003; Wise, et al, 1984). As described below, teacher performance can be assessed in at least two ways: using measures of student achievement, typically test scores; and using evaluations made by principals, the administrators who supervise teachers in schools.

Assessing Teacher Performance through Student Achievement

Some commentators recommend that teacher performance be evaluated using student-achievement measures (typically standardized test scores) (e.g., Finn, 1999). Critics of this approach (e.g., Darling-Hammond, 2005) have suggested that test scores may be misleading since they are dependent upon factors other than teacher performance (e.g., students' prior experience, students' family and community environment, and teachers' class assignments--the proportion of higher- and lower-achieving classes to which a particular teacher is assigned). Accordingly, in a study with two cohorts, only 8% and 2% (respectively) of the variance in students' test scores was statistically attributable to teacher-related variables (Hill, Rowan, & Ball, 2005). Moreover, test scores reflect student performance on the single day the test is given, which may not accurately reflect students' level of competence.

At the same time, given the widespread emphasis on testing in modern schools, it seems important to examine the research on the influence of teachers' content knowledge and pedagogical knowledge on student achievement. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.