New Study Explores Access to Effective Teaching for Disadvantaged Students

Disadvantaged students had less access to effective teaching. Equal access for one year would have reduced the student achievement gap by two percentile points.
May 19, 2014

A new study by Mathematica Policy Research explores disparities in access to effective teaching in 29 diverse school districts across the country, revealing that disadvantaged students receive less effective teaching, on average, compared with other students. If disadvantaged students had equal access to effective teaching, the achievement gap between disadvantaged students and other students within these districts would shrink from 28 to 26 percentile points in English/language arts and from 26 to 24 percentile points in math after one year. Sponsored by the Institute of Education Sciences, U.S. Department of Education, this is the first of three reports focusing on access to effective teaching.

Other key findings: 

•Of the 29 school districts in the study, disadvantaged students had less access to effective teaching in 27 districts for English/language arts and in 19 districts for math. 
•Access to effective teaching for disadvantaged students did not change over the three years of the study. 
•Unequal access to effective teaching resulted more from how teachers and students were spread across schools than how teachers were assigned to students within schools. 
About the Study: Researchers collected data on teachers and students in grades 4 through 8 from 29 school districts in the 2008–2009 through 2010–2011 school years. They used a value-added analysis to measure the effectiveness of teaching in these districts. Value-added analysis attempts to estimate each teacher’s unique contribution to student achievement by accounting for students’ prior achievement and other factors that are related to achievement but outside the teacher’s control. The researchers then compared the average value added of the teachers of disadvantaged students to the average value added of teachers of other students. Eligibility for free or reduced-price lunch was used to identify disadvantaged students.

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