Panel Paper: Student Teaching Apprenticeships in Context: The Importance of Specific Human Capital in Early-Career Teacher Development

Saturday, November 9, 2019
Plaza Building: Concourse Level, Governor's Square 17 (Sheraton Denver Downtown)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

John Krieg1, Roddy Theobald2 and Dan Goldhaber2,3, (1)Western Washington University, (2)American Institutes for Research, (3)University of Washington

While it is well documented that teacher quality is the most important school-based factor associated with improving student achievement, research on policies design to influence the quality of inservice teachers is disheartening (e.g., Hill and Ball, 2004; Jacob and Lefgren, 2004; Springer et al., 2013). That said, two lines of research suggest that teacher quality may actually be quite malleable early in a teacher’s career. The first line of research, focusing on the apprenticeships required of teachers before they enter the workforce (their “student teaching experiences”), suggests that the type and quality of student teaching placements are associated with future teacher effectiveness (Bastian et al., 2019; Goldhaber et al., 2017, 2018; Ronfeldt, 2012; 2015; Ronfeldt et al., 2018). And the second line of research investigates heterogeneity in the well-documented returns to early-career teaching experience and finds that these returns depend, in part, on the specifics of that experience; for instance, Ost (2014) finds that teachers improve faster early in their careers if they do not switch between grades, while Atteberry et al. (2016) find similar results for switching between different types of teaching assignments.

This study seeks to contribute to both lines of prior research by leveraging data on the student teaching experiences of over 20,000 teacher candidates that have been assembled as part of the Teacher Education Learning Collaborative (TELC), a partnership with 15 of the 21 teacher education programs (TEPs) that place student teachers in Washington. TEPs participating in TELC have produced 79% of newly credentialed in-state teachers during the past decade, and since 2009-10, individual candidates can be linked to the grade level and student demographics of both the classroom in which they did their student teaching and, if they enter the state’s public teaching workforce, the classroom(s) in which they begin their teaching careers.

We will use this dataset to explore the importance of specific human capital—i.e., experiences that are specific to a candidate’s future teaching positions—in the transition from student teaching to early-career teaching positions. Specifically, we will investigate whether teachers who student taught in the same grade, school, or district in which they are currently teaching are more effective than teachers who switched grades, schools, or districts between student teaching and their first job. We will also extend prior work on school-level student demographics (Goldhaber et al., 2017) to explore whether the match between student demographics measured at the classroom level between a teacher’s current position and student teaching position are predictive of teacher effectiveness.

The findings from this paper will be of considerable interest to policymakers—both in Washington and across the country—who are responsible for developing policies that impact student teaching placements in public schools. In particular, if prior findings about the importance of specific human capital in early-career teacher development extend to the specific classrooms and grades in which candidates do their student teaching, then it suggests that policies should be developed to ensure a close alignment between student teaching placements and teachers’ first teaching positions.