NATIONAL IMPLICATIONS: THE IMPACT OF TEACHER GRADUATE DEGREES ON STUDENT MATH ASSESSMENTS by Dr. Kevin Badgett, Dr. John Decman, Dr. Carol Carman - Published in National FORUM of Teacher Education Journal, 23(3) 2013 - See: www.nationalforum.com

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NATIONAL IMPLICATIONS: THE IMPACT OF TEACHER GRADUATE DEGREES ON STUDENT MATH ASSESSMENTS by Dr. Kevin Badgett, Dr. John Decman, Dr. Carol Carman - Published in National FORUM of Teacher Education Journal, 23(3) 2013 - See: www.nationalforum.com - Dr. William Allan Kritsonis, Editor-in-Chief (Since 1982)
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   NATIONAL FORUM OF TEACHER EDUCATION JOURNALVOLUME 23, NUMBER 3, 20131 National Implications: The Impact of Teacher Graduate Degrees onStudent Math Assessments Kevin Badgett, EdD Assistant Professor of Educational Leadership University of Texas of the Permian BasinOdessa, TX John Decman, EdD Associate Professor of Educational Leadership University of Houston-Clear LakeHouston, TX Carol Carman, PhD Associate Professor Educational Foundations  –  Research University of Houston-Clear LakeHouston, TX _____________________________________________________________________________  Abstract Researchers have called for greater levels of teacher preparation. There remains many questionsabout the extent to which graduate education contributes in a positive way to studentachievement. The purpose for this research was to ascertain the extent to which teacher graduatedegrees contribute to student math achievement as measured by Texas state math exams. Results of this research demonstrated master’s degrees have only a limited positive impact on student math achievement. Further study is recommended.  Keywords : Master’s Degree, Student Achievement, Policy   ______________________________________________________________________________  In order to deal with a “widespread public perception that something” (The National Commission on Excellence in Education, 1983, p. 7) was very wrong with the American systemof education, Reagan era Secretary of Education, T.H. Bell created the National Commission on Excellence in Education. The purpose of the commission’s report,  A Nation at Risk, was to highlight evidence of America’s loss of standing in the world market and to providerecommendations which, if acted upon by policy makers, would lead to America’s ability to compete in a new global market where intellectual capital was the currency necessary for success(The National Commission on Excellence in Education, 1983). According to Sunderman (2010),   NATIONAL FORUM OF TEACHER EDUCATION JOURNAL2___________________________________________________________________________________________   A Nation at Risk  contained recommendations which its authors proposed would mitigate the lossof standing through a shift of focus to the successful preparation of students for meaningfulintegration into the work force.Continuing this work in a bipartisan effort, Congress enacted The No Child Left BehindAct of 2001 (NCLB). According to Williams, Tabernik, and Krivak (2009), NCLB “placed aspotlight on school improvement efforts designed to increase achievement for all students” (p. 437). Almost 20 years later, this act later showed that the question of inputs and outputs was still just as much at the crux of the national standards-based reform movement as it was when Secretary Bell released his committee’s report. In order to address the achievement requirements set out by NCLB, school leaders understand the question is not “what” but “how.” New instructional methods purported to improve student achievement are always available. With more than three million returns on a Yahoo.com search for “research based math programs   for struggling students,” how can a  practitioner know the most effective means for accomplishing the goal of improving studentachievement? Beyond ensuring the tools are appropriate for the task or desired outcome, there isone player in the instructional scenario shown in research to make a strong impact on studentachievement: the teacher (Timperley & Alton-Lee, 2008; Wayne & Youngs, 2003).According to Timperley and Alton- Lee (2008), the teacher makes a “marked impact” (p. 330) on student achievement. Similarly, Wayne and Youngs (2003) assert there is a substantialconnection between student achievement and the teacher who teaches that student. While thisconclusion may seem logical and reasonable, the declaration of this fact does not give a clear understanding of how and why. Moreover, a teacher simply placed in a classroom has no magicfrom which to draw to make that impact positive. What, then, makes the teacher so important tostudent achievement?Previous researchers have attempted to clarify teacher characteristics that contribute tostudent achievement. Hill, Rowan, and Ball (2005) found levels of teacher mathematics expertiseare significant in relation to student achievement for first and third grade students. Althoughthere is no clear conclusion that teacher motivation has an impact on student achievement(Muller, Alliata, & Benninghoff, 2009), Pelletier, Legault, and Séguin-Lévesque (2002) showedteacher motivation did have some impacton student motivation.In addition to research, reasonand logic reinforce the idea that a motivated teacher is more likely to cultivate and nurture alearning environment where students are more motivated to work for their success. Numerous researchers have considered the impact of certain kinds of pre-service inputs,in terms of teacher preparation/skill-set, on student achievement (Darling-Hammond, 2006,2010; Dee & Cohodes, 2008; Scribner & Akiba, 2010), but learning for in-service teachers should not stop simply because they are no longer “pre” service. According to Porter et al.(2010), in-service professional development is one of the five key pieces of principal leadership.One type of important and widely-available in-service professional development is the graduatedegree. However, while graduate studies are encouraged, there is a lack of quantitative evidence clarifying the impact of teachers’ graduate degrees on student achievement (Boyd, Grossman, Lankford, Loeb, & Wyckoff, 2009; Conway, Eros, & Stanley, 2009; Darling-Hammond, 2006).Despite the fact that one can find a strong literature presence of research looking at how pre-service teacher training contributes to student achievement (Boyd et al., 2009; Darling-Hammond, 2006, 2010), there is little research that addresses the impact of teacher graduateeducation on student achievement. In fact, Conway et al. (2009) maintain there is altogether a  KEVIN BADGETT, JOHN DECMAN, AND CAROL CARMAN ___________________________________________________________________________________________3 lack of research documenting that graduate work is “a powerful professional developmentexperience” (p. 129). A   limited amount of research has been conducted. Knapp, McNergney, Herbert, and York (1990) asserted master’s degrees have only a modest impact on student achievement. Ballou and Podgursky (2000) made this more complicated by highlighting some areas where the students of teachers with only a bachelor’s degree outperformed students of teachers with amaster’s degree in eighth grade reading achievement. Hanushek (2003) analyzed findings from adata set with longitudinal information of student testing during the mid-1990s in Texas. In thatanalysis, the regression used also considered a number of other factors including class size,socio-economic status, and teacher experience, among other things. Conspicuously absent fromthe list of factors was graduate degrees. The absence of that kind of focus contributes to a  persistent gap in the literature. Despite the fact that measurable data is “increasingly demanded by policy makers” (Darling -Hammond, 2006, p. 121), much of the limited research dealing withthe impact of graduate-level teacher education and preparation on student achievement hasfocused on perception and not the preferred empirical data. Nevertheless, even in light of thisvoid, districts and researchers have continually called for the use of using higher levels of educational attainment as a proxy for instructional skill and content knowledge (Boyd et al.,2009; Conway et al., 2010; Darling-Hammond, 2006, 2010).Graduate degrees are one type of individualized preparation that receives consistentconsideration in teacher compensation though the state of Texas has no requirement that a teacher hold a master’s degree prior to being employed or for full certification. A review of a sample of school districts in Texas, including Pasadena ISD, Laredo ISD, Fort Stockton ISD, andHurst, Euless, Bedford ISD, reveals the willingness of school boards to commit extra financialresources to attract more highly educated staff. Average annual compensation differences between teachers holding bac helor’s degrees and master’s degrees in these districts range from $1,000.00 to $2,580.00 (Fort Stockton ISD, 2012; Hurst, Euless, Bedford ISD, 2012; LaredoISD, 2012; Pasadena ISD, 2012). Given the common practice across Texas of providing higher salaries to teachers with higher degrees, is there evidence that Texas teachers, with graduatedegrees, impact student achievement in significant ways? In other words, what is the value of this policy as it relates to student academic achievement?In the absence of clear and compelling evidence that graduate degrees do contribute tostudent achievement, this practice begs the question “why.” If the purpose of policy is to “invokethe reality it seeks to create” (Hellstrom & Jacob, 2005, p. 463) then, the implicatio n of thisstatement as it relates to teaching and learning is policy makers and educational leaders shouldadvocate and work toward the development and implementation of policies which have a clear, positive impact on student achievement. According to McDonnell (2009), education policy should always be focused on student achievement. Moreover, because “hiring is a centralactivity in which school leaders can build professional communities” (Ingle & Rutledge, 2010, p. 44), policy makers and district leaders need information that can inform decision making relatedto how teachers are hired, trained, and compensated.   NATIONAL FORUM OF TEACHER EDUCATION JOURNAL4___________________________________________________________________________________________  Other Considerations When quantifying factors related to student achievement, it would be nearly impossibleto control or even identify all influencing factors. According to Olson (2004), it is difficult todefinitively identify causal factors on student achievement; the influence of other things cannotalways be ruled out. Olson argued this reality compromises the resear  cher’s ability to rule outcausality. However, in his response to Olson’s criticism regarding the lack of ability to bear out  best practices due to the contamination of uncontrollable and various factors, Slavin (2004) asked “recognizing this variation, is it impossible to tell a teacher, principal or superintendent anything at all about the likely average effects of one or another program or practice?” (p. 27)Slavin continued his argument by stating “enlightened educators look to education research for  well- founded evidence to help them do a better job with the children they serve” (p. 27). WithSlavin’s assertions and Olson’s concerns, some of the common variables shown to impactstudent achievement have been considered in order to ensure the findings of this research arevalid and reliable.   The literature is clear about the presence of factors other than teacher graduateeducational attainment influencing student achievement (Anderson, 2008; Badgett, Harrell,Carman, & Lyles, 2012; Capps et al., 2005; Esters & Douet, 2001; Gottfried, 2009; Marks,2005; Scanlon & Devine, 2001; Wiggins, 2007). In order to develop a better understanding of thedegree to which teacher graduate educational attainment impacts student achievement, it isimportant to identify and control for other potentially confounding factors. These factors includerace and ethnicity, limited English proficiency status, socio-economic status, attendance rate, percentage of students with disciplinary placement, at-risk status, and mobility rate. It isimportant to note the factors are based on variables tracked by the state of Texas and thosefrequently cited in a comprehensive review of literature on the topic (Anderson, 2008; Capps, etal., 2005; Gottfried, 2009; Marks, 2005; Wiggins, 2007). Purpose of the Study The purpose of this study was to ascertain the extent   to which a higher level of educationfor a collective district teaching staff contributed to student math achievement as measured bythe TAKS Math test. In order to accomplish this, district-level accountability data were analyzed.   This was an important inquiry due to the intersection of two concepts. In addition to the absenceof a sheltered or isolated focus on the contribution of teacher graduate degrees to studentachievement in the literature, there have been recent and definitive calls for greater levels of teacher education for full certification. These conditions may have contributed to ambiguity andinconsistency in recruiting and compensation of teachers with graduate degrees at the districtlevel. By specifically addressing the impact of teacher graduate education and measurableachievement in math, policy makers will have a clearer description of the relationship of the two.While professional development comes in many forms and varied sources, this researchsheds light on the value of completed programs of generic graduate study. In that this study addsone substantial point of knowledge to the literature, its scope, design, and intent were not broadenough to make definitive, long-term recommendations related to hiring and compensation of teachers. However, by adding this point of knowledge to the aggregate, this research can inform
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