Science Magazine Examines the Effectiveness of Novice STEM Teachers
The March 2nd issue of Science includes the report “The Effects of Experience and Attrition for Novice High-School Science and Mathematics Teachers.” Gary Henry and Kevin Bastian from the University of North Carolina and Kevin Fortner from the University of Georgia examined over one million test scores taken by students of almost 8,000 teachers in North Carolina. Using a value-added methodology, the authors were able to analyze the teachers’ effectiveness in raising test scores. The study had a particular emphasis on teachers with less than five years of teaching experience. The major finding in the report is that, not surprisingly, experience matters!
The authors found that teachers in science and math disciplines became more effective with more experience, although there were not uniform increases across science and math subject areas. Physics and chemistry are the two subject areas with the greatest continuing increases year over year in teacher effectiveness, while algebra and geometry teachers experienced the lowest rates of continued improvement. In addition, the effectiveness of teachers in non-STEM disciplines also showed smaller increases during their first five years in the classroom.
The study also revealed that science and math teachers who left the profession with less than five years’ experience were less effective than those who remained for more than five years. While it may initially seem beneficial to have ineffective teachers leave the classroom, could those same teachers have grown more effective if they had remained in the classroom? And how much stronger might they have been if they had access to mentoring and content area supports?
The study by Henry, et al reinforces NCTAF’s convictions that great teaching is necessary for student success and that schools must more effectively support committed teachers. The authors state that “students of beginning teachers will not achieve at the same rate as more experienced teachers” but novice teachers have “a tremendous capacity for improving quickly.” Novice teachers’ rapid improvement occurs through experience, professional development, and collaboration with other educators. NCTAF’s Learning Studios provide an environment in which all three of these areas of growth are present. Learning Studios utilize the expertise of veteran teachers and scientists to nurture STEM teachers and help them to develop into effective educators, regardless of the number of years they have been in the classroom.