Quality Teaching

More than 15 years of research makes clear that quality teaching is “inextricably linked” with quality learning and student achievement (Barry and King, 2005). But what exactly does “quality” mean? Is subject knowledge sufficient? Is a college degree enough? Research by Darling-Hammond, et al., delivers a resounding “no.” Darling-Hammond’s examination of six years of data on fourth- and fifth-grade student achievement on six math and reading tests in Houston show that: (1) certified teachers “consistently produce significantly stronger student achievement gains than do uncertified teachers,” and (2) alternatively certified teachers are “generally less effective” (Darling-Hammond, et al., 2005).
It is simply not enough to put professionals on a fast track to the classroom through emergency permits and waivers. But that is precisely what many states are doing, particularly in predominantly minority and low-income classrooms, and in “hard-to-staff” and low-performing schools. In fact, secondary students in low-performing schools are “twice as likely as those in high-performing schools to be taught by teachers who are not certified in the subjects they are teaching” (Humphrey, et al., 2005). And, while teaching experience leads to higher quality teaching, “teachers in high-poverty, high-minority schools are less likely to have teaching experience than their colleagues in low-poverty, higher-performing schools” (Humphrey, et al., 2005). The problem is exacerbated by education policies and school finance systems that under fund or inequitably fund recruitment, retention and comprehensive professional development and by accountability policies that give too little attention to instructional practice and the need for financial and technical assistance (Emerick, 2004).
Recognizing these gaps, IDRA has taken an unwavering stand for quality teaching for all students – teaching that is characterized by strong content knowledge and effective pedagogy, quality decision-making in the classroom, self-efficacy, innovation, capacity to teach diverse students, and is grounded in community and institutional support. IDRA’s work is guided by the conviction that all students deserve success, and failure is never an option.

A Snapshot of What IDRA is Doing

Conducting Research – IDRA embeds research-based models of content delivery and pedagogy into every professional development training. In addition, research and evaluation of innovative models helps to inform teaching practices and professional development in the field. For example, IDRA’s assessment of its Focusing on Language and Academic Instructional Renewal (FLAIR) professional development program, which combines proven reading strategies with professional development, has shown dramatic results in student reading levels.
Developing Leaders – Each month, IDRA works with more than 10,000 parents, educators, principals and school board members to expand educational leadership and effectiveness, and to increase community and institutional support for quality teaching. As examples of this work, IDRA’s Transitions and T-TExAS initiatives, funded by the U.S. Department of Education, are providing accelerated teacher certification programs that increase the number of fully-qualified and credentialed ESL/bilingual teachers working with English language learners in “high-need” schools. IDRA’s MathSmart! training offers secondary school math teachers innovative technology-based strategies to make math come alive in their classrooms.
Informing Policy – IDRA’s ongoing analysis and testimony on school finance, teacher certification, bilingual education and English language learning has long been a resource to policymakers, community members and education leaders. In addition to informing public policy, IDRA works to improve education policy, for example, recommending actions that universities can undertake to recruit, teach, and certify bilingual education teachers and to foster their leadership in bilingual and bicultural education.
Engaging Communities – With input from families and community members in San Antonio, IDRA is creating an interactive, technology-based indicator system that will help community members assess institutional health and teaching quality in their schools. This system will provide links to positive action that community members can take to improve school success.
What You Can Do

Get informed at the local level, by finding out from school principals and teachers themselves, if teachers in your children’s schools are certified in the subjects they teach. (For more information, see Pláticas en Acción: Quality Teaching, http://www.idra.org/families-and-communities/quality-teaching/ published by IDRA’s Parent Information Resource Center).
To learn more about the status of teacher certification, see State Board for Educator Certification in Texas at http://www.sbec.state.tx.us/SBECOnline/default.asp. For a broader view, see Education Week’s Quality Counts report, a 50-state summary on teaching and licensing requirements in each state (http://www.edweek.org).
Get involved Promote teacher certification and quality instruction by working with your schools and public officials if teachers in your local area lack adequate training or certification and need additional training, preparation and support. Insist that the Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills (TAKS) not be the only indicator of whether students pass or fail a grade. Advocate teacher preparation that ensures teacher competence in teaching diverse students (for more information, see the Texas Latino Education Coalition’s, “Overview of TLEC Issues” http://www.texans4fairfunding.org/about.html). If you are a teacher, join efforts to mentor newer teachers, giving them the benefit of your experience and the support to develop their own self-efficacy and leadership.
Get results At the national level, press for funding appropriations (e.g., under Title III of the No Child Left Behind Act) that constitute real financial commitment to quality education for diverse students in general and English language learners in particular. Ensure in your own state, that school budgets make maximum use of funding that is available to provide educational equity for all students (Villarreal, 2005). Take leadership to promote quality teaching in your own community. For a useful blueprint, see the Public Education Network’s A Community Action Guide to Teacher Quality at http://www.publiceducation.org/tqguide.asp.

Additional Research and Resources

  • Berry, B. and T. King. (2005). Recruiting and Retaining National Board Certified Teachers for Hard-to-Staff, Low-Performing Schools; Silver Bullets or Smart Solutions. The Southeast Center for Teaching Quality, Chapel Hill, North Carolina.
  • Darling-Hammond, L., Holtzman, D.J., Gatlin, S.J., & Heilig, J. V. (2005). Does Teacher Preparation Matter? Evidence about Teacher Certification, Teach for America, and Teacher Effectiveness. Stanford University.
  • Emerick, S., Hirsch, E., & Barnett, B. (2004, November). Does Highly Qualified Mean High-Quality? Infobrief. Number 39. NCLB and Teachers. Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development. Retrieved May 10, 2005 from www.teachingquality.org.
  • Humphrey, D.C., Koppich, J.E. & Hough, H.J. (2005, March 3). Sharing the wealth: National Board Certified Teachers and the students who need them most. Education Policy Analysis Archives, 13 (18). Retrieved May 9, 2005 from http://epaa.asu.edu/epaa/v13n18/.
  • Solis, A. (2004, June-July). The Role of Mentoring in Teacher Quality and Retention. IDRA Newsletter. Intercultural Development Research Association.
  • Villarreal, A. (2003, April). Quality Teaching: A School Reform Dilemma. IDRA Newsletter. Intercultural Development Research Association.
Comments and questions may be directed to IDRA via e-mail at feedback@idra.org.

[©2005, IDRA. This article originally appeared in the IDRA Newsletter by the Intercultural Development Research Association. Every effort has been made to maintain the content in its original form. However, accompanying charts and graphs may not be provided here. To receive a copy of the original article by mail or fax, please fill out our information request and feedback form. Permission to reproduce this article is granted provided the article is reprinted in its entirety and proper credit is given to IDRA and the author.]