Teacher Effects and the Achievement Gap: Do Teacher and Teaching Quality Influence the Achievement Gap Between Black and White and High- and Low-SES Students in the Early Grades?

Dec. 01, 2010

Source: Teachers College Record ,Volume 112 Number 12, ( 2010).

Although there is relative agreement on the pattern of the achievement gap, attributing changes in the gap to schooling is less clear. This study contributes to understanding potential teacher and teaching effects on achievement and inequality.

Purpose of Study

The authors investigate the extent to which specific aspects of teacher quality and teaching quality influence mathematics achievement growth and the achievement gap between White and Black students and low- and high-SES students in kindergarten and first grade. The authors examine the following aspects of teacher quality: degree in math, experience, certification, math courses, and professional development. Furthermore, the authors also explore some aspects of teaching quality : time spent on math instruction and conceptual, basic procedural, and advanced procedural instruction.

Research Design, Data Collection and Analysis
In this secondary analysis, the authors examine the first four waves of data from the National Center for Education Statistics’ Early Childhood Longitudinal Study (2000), a nationally representative longitudinal sample of students who were kindergartners in 1998. The authors use multilevel growth models to estimate relationships.


The authors found evidence that lower achieving students are initially assigned to teachers who emphasize basic instruction. Furthermore, the authors found that higher achieving students are assigned teachers who emphasize more advanced instruction. The use of advanced procedural instruction and time spent on math were related to achievement growth for traditionally disadvantaged populations—Black students and low-SES students. Other types of instruction and teacher quality variables were not related to achievement growth.

Conclusions and Recommendations

The authors found weak or no effects for teacher quality and type of instruction. This finding suggests that these aspects of teacher and teaching quality may operate as sorting variables.
The authors also found that low achievers tend to get teachers who spend less time on instruction. The author found that this variable is significant in influencing achievement growth.

If, as this study found, time on instruction matters, and disadvantaged students are more likely to get the weakest teachers who spend less time on instruction, the authors can identify an area in which schooling increases the achievement gap but has the potential to ameliorate it.

Jerry West, Kristin Denton, and Elvira Germino-Hausken. America's Kindergartners. Early Childhood Longitudinal Study - Kindergarten Class of 1998-99, Fall 1998. National Center for Education Statistics. Statistical Analysis Report, (February 2000). 

Updated: Nov. 28, 2010