A multilevel structural analysis of predictors of urban teacher effectiveness

Jones, Akisha R.
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University of Delaware
A framework for teacher quality was developed to examine attributes of urban teachers in relation to their impact on student learning, understanding the role and value teachers play in improving student learning and the unique challenges of urban schools. This framework considers direct relationships between teacher attributes and teacher effects; mediation, which may help explain relationships between teacher attributes and teacher effects; and contextual effects, which consider the nested nature of educational data. Using data from the Measures of Effective Teaching (MET) study, I establish a sample of urban teachers from the six MET districts working in schools with at least both 60% minority and 60% low-income student populations. A multilevel structural modeling (MSEM) is employed to examine urban teacher characteristics and qualifications as predictors of teacher effects estimated using value-added modeling, with measures of pedagogical content knowledge and instructional practices as mediators. Using significant attributes resulting from MSEM analyses, I predict the impact on student learning of making specific improvements to the qualifications and characteristics of the urban teacher workforce. Findings suggest that improving instructional quality among urban teachers is likely to have the largest impact on student learning. Teachers' pedagogical content knowledge in math was also found to have significant impacts, and teachers' race is associated with student performance in English Language Arts (ELA). Contextual effects were found in ELA with schools composed of teachers with advanced degrees or higher levels of instructional quality showing positive associations with student learning. A significant mediating effect was also identified in which White teachers, as mediated by their pedagogical content knowledge, were found to have a significant positive impact on student learning in math. No evidence was found indicating that teachers' gender, advanced degree, or years of teaching experience in their district had a direct predictive relationship with student learning, in either subject. Significant teacher effects resulting from this study can be used to inform policymakers' and practitioners' urban teacher hiring, development, and evaluation decisions, understanding that recruiting teachers with higher instructional quality and math pedagogical content knowledge may be critical. Teachers' race may also be important to recognize in ELA instruction, with minority teachers being more effective, suggesting that policymakers and practitioners should find ways to attract minority teachers for ELA instruction that have high levels of instructional quality. In relation to significant contextual effects, reformers must better understand and build upon the social dynamics between teachers that share these significant attributes in urban schools as influenced by such facilitators as communities of practice and teacher leadership, and their likeliness to influence student learning. This study can also be used to guide more focused research on urban schools and teachers, specifically, and guide future studies of teacher quality, which should consider contextual and mediating effects. Policymakers can use significant findings, along with future research on urban teachers, to better select and prepare teachers for urban schools. Results from this study can inform national conversations on urban teacher and school reform, drive future research on urban teachers and schooling, and ultimately help to improve the quality of education for our students who need it most.