How Valuable is Teaching Experience?

Teacher compensation and retention policies have long been based on the idea that more teaching experience means somebody is a better teacher.  The recent wave of massive teacher layoffs have made many question that heuristic, and that’s led to some “outside-the-box” research on who makes a good teacher.

For example, a recent study led by Daniel Boyd of the University of Albany looks at the teaching prowess of “career switchers,” people who lack teaching experience, but who have experience and expertise in other professional areas.

This study uses data from New York City to assess the relative effectiveness and retention of career-switchers. It provides some evidence that these teachers are no more effective than other new teachers, and, in fact, they appear to be less effective at raising math scores of elementary and middle school students. There is little difference in overall transfer or leave rates between teachers with prior experience and other teachers

What you take away from the study depends on your outlook. The good news is that experienced teachers can be replaced by other experienced professionals without much drop-off. The bad news is that hiring non-teacher professionals doesn’t appear to be the silver bullet everyone is hopelessly searching for.

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