Teacher experience

The nytimes had a room for opinion today on teacher experience and whether it matters or not. It’s pretty common knowledge in the education policy world that teacher’s improve with experience only for the first couple years, and then the marginal gains to years of experience level off.

How do we know this?

Smart economists can take advantage of rich datasets and standard econometric techniques to isolate the impact of a marginal year of experience averaged over tens of thousands of classroom interactions. That, to me, seems like a much better analytical tool than anecdotal evidence from a single teacher.

So, naturally the nytimes invited not a single education-policy economist to contribute to its round-table; instead it solicited opinions from a number of teachers that argued (using anecdotes, of course) that of course teachers improve with experience.

Now, I understand why it seems intuitive that teachers would improve with experience. And, frankly, I’m sure that many do. But, if this improvement with experience were having a large impact on student learning and student behavior, we should be able to find it in the data–and, unfortunately, it’s nowhere to be found…


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