Academic journal article Journal of Teacher Education

What Do Teaching Qualifications Mean in Urban Schools? A Mixed-Methods Study of Teacher Preparation and Qualification

Academic journal article Journal of Teacher Education

What Do Teaching Qualifications Mean in Urban Schools? A Mixed-Methods Study of Teacher Preparation and Qualification

Article excerpt

Introduction

In the current climate of educational accountability, the inequitable distribution of teachers and the "failure" of teacher education programs have become focal points in the discussion of how to provide a quality education to all students (Duncan, 2009). This discussion, furthermore, continues to be especially salient for schools serving poor minority students in urban areas who desperately need high quality teachers. The teachers in these schools in particular, according to rhetoric, are unprepared, ineffective, and transitory (Darling-Hammond & Green, 1990; Ingersoll, 2001; Jacob, 2007; Thernstrom & Thernstrom, 2003). The research community has been unable to determine not only how best to prepare teachers for the tasks of teaching and staying in these high-needs urban schools but also how to measure and evaluate incoming teacher qualification (Levine, 2006). Therefore, politicians and school districts continue to evaluate incoming teachers based on those readily available preparation-related credentials highlighted by the federal government such as certification, test scores, and the amount of coursework completed. These credentials, due to the immense diversity of certification pathways, have lost a good deal of their practical meaning (Constantine et al., 2009).

The lack of knowledge regarding how to train teachers for high poverty/high minority urban areas and the lack of distinction in the teacher credentialing process have created a policy problem that is especially detrimental to the urban districts that contain a majority of the high poverty/high minority schools in the United States (Knight & Wiseman, 2005; Wilson, Floden, & Ferrini-Mundy, 2001). In addition to the many challenges associated with educating students living in poverty, the teachers in these schools are generally less experienced and have much higher rates of attrition (Ingersoll, 2004). These schools also tend to hire later than wealthy suburban districts, have trouble attracting (and keeping) teachers, and have the fewest resources available to thoroughly evaluate incoming teachers (Ingersoll, 2004). This article examines the use of two readily available measures of incoming teacher qualification--amount of teacher education coursework and the highly qualified teaching credential as methods for predicting the teaching confidence and retention of incoming and novice teachers in high poverty/high minority urban schools. Although it is difficult to identify the precise methods districts use to make hiring decisions, it is clear that large urban school districts rarely have the resources to evaluate candidates beyond incoming qualifications. Data from the Teacher Policy Research center lends support to this assumption, as they provide documentation that school districts and principals are most likely to consider general information (such as degree, certification status, and major; Boyd et al., 2010). Politicians need, first, to know more than whether a teacher holds specific credentials-but also what those credentials mean--before any reforms can be made to teacher education policy.

In this article, I adopt a mixed-methods approach to addressing the question: To what extent do readily available, surface measures of incoming teacher qualification predict teaching confidence and teacher retention in high poverty/ high minority urban schools? In doing so, I begin to create a crucial chain of evidence situated in the context of high poverty/high minority schools linking teacher preparation, first, to teacher efficacy (individual teaching confidence) and then to teacher retention (see Figure 1; Cochran-Smith, 2005). In creating this chain of evidence, it is important to connect what happens before teaching to what happens during teaching and to a longitudinal outcome. It is this type of empirical evidence that the field of teacher education research is lacking and, therefore, is unable to assist schools and districts to make informed decisions when hiring new teachers who can only document inputs at the time of hiring. …

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