As noted in the extensive body of evidence cited throughout this report, research is confirming that good teaching does matter. In reviewing the literature, the Committee on Science and Mathematics Teacher Preparation (CSMTP) found that studies conducted over the past quarter century increasingly point to a strong correlation between student achievement in K-12 science and mathematics and the teaching quality and level of knowledge of K-12 teachers of science and mathematics. Other studies have found positive correlations between teachers’ performance on state examinations, years of teaching experience, and advanced degrees and student tests scores in reading and mathematics. Specific content preparation of teachers also has been found to make a difference in student achievement. Several studies conducted over the past 15 years and detailed in the committee’s report have concluded that “in-field” teachers—i.e., teachers holding specific certificates in certain subject areas—not only know more content in their subject area than their “out-of-field” colleagues but also use their content knowledge more effectively in the classroom.
Teaching effectiveness, defined as the ability to produce desired changes within the classroom, has been found to relate positively to the number of education courses taken by teachers, their grades as student teachers, and teaching experience. Some recent studies also have found that teacher quality accounts for a greater amount of the variance in student achievement than do variables such as the racial composition of schools or students’ economic levels.
The CSMTP believes that these and other studies have clear implications for teacher preparation. Science and mathematics educators as well as practitioners have concluded that content knowledge must be a central focus of a science or mathematics teacher’s preparation, with the result being a deeper understanding of the fundamental science, mathematics, or technology that he or she will need to teach. These conclusions are consistent with an emerging body of research in cognitive science that is contributing to our understanding of the processes by which people learn.
Many national organizations have recommended improvements in the education of teachers of K-12 science and mathematics, including the National