Teacher Qualifications and Student Achievement in Urban Elementary Schools

by Richard Buddin, Gema Zamarro

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Teacher quality is a key element of student academic success, but few specific teacher characteristics influence classroom outcomes. This research examines whether teacher licensure test scores and other teacher attributes affect elementary student achievement. The results are based on longitudinal student-level data from Los Angeles. California requires three types of teacher licensure tests as part of the teacher certification process; a general knowledge test, a subject area test (single subject for secondary teachers and multiple subject for elementary teachers), and a reading pedagogy test for elementary school teachers. The student achievement analysis uses a value-added approach that adjusts for both student and teacher fixed effects. The results show large differences in teacher quality across the school district, but measured teacher characteristics explain little of the difference. Teacher licensure test scores are unrelated to teacher success in the classroom. Similarly, student achievement is unaffected by whether classroom teachers have advanced degrees. Student achievement increases with teacher experience, but the linkage is weak and largely reflects poor outcomes for teachers during their first year or two in the classroom.

This is the author's version of a work that was accepted for publication in Journal of Urban Economics. Changes resulting from the publishing process, such as peer review, editing, corrections, structural formatting, and other quality control mechanisms may not be reflected in this document. Changes may have been made to this work since it was submitted for publication. A definitive version was subsequently published in the Journal of Urban Economics, Vol. 66, pp. 103-115, 2009. Copyright 2009 Elsevier Inc.

Originally published in Journal of Urban Economics, Vol. 66, pp. 103-115, 2009.

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