Date: 26 May 2009

Is experience the best teacher? A multilevel analysis of teacher characteristics and student achievement in low performing schools

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Abstract

The study investigated several teacher characteristics, with a focus on two measures of teaching experience, and their association with second grade student achievement gains in low performing, high poverty schools in a Mid-Atlantic state. Value-added models using three-level hierarchical linear modeling were used to analyze the data from 1,544 students, 154 teachers, and 53 schools. Results indicated that traditional teacher qualification characteristics such as licensing status and educational attainment were not statistically significant in producing student achievement gains. Total years of teaching experience was also not a significant predictor but a more specific measure, years of teaching experience at a particular grade level, was significantly associated with increased student reading achievement. We caution researchers and policymakers when interpreting results from studies that have used only a general measure of teacher experience as effects are possibly underestimated. Policy implications are discussed.