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We used survey and administrative data from Washington State to assess the degree to which special education teacher preparation, district literacy instructional practices, and the alignment between preparation and practice were associated with the reading test score gains of students with high-incidence disabilities taught by early-career special education teachers in grades 4-8. These students tended to have larger reading gains when their district emphasized evidence-based literacy decoding practices (e.g., phonological awareness, phonics, and reading fluency) and when their special education teacher graduated from a teacher education program that also emphasized these practices. Students with high-incidence disabilities in districts that emphasized balanced literacy practices tended to have lower reading gains. Finally, students with high-incidence disabilities taught by early-career special education teachers tended to have larger reading gains when their teacher’s student teaching placement was supervised by a more experienced cooperating teacher.
Citation: Roddy Theobald, Dan Goldhaber, Kristian Holden, Marcy Stein (2021). Special Education Teacher Preparation, Literacy Instructional Alignment, and Reading Achievement for Students with High-Incidence Disabilities. CALDER Working Paper No. 253-0621
We use data on the teacher preparation experiences and workforce outcomes of more than 1,300 graduates of special education teacher education programs in Washington to provide a descriptive portrait of special education teacher preparation, workforce entry, and early career retention. We find high rates of workforce entry for special education candidates (over 80%), but we document considerably lower rates of entry into special education classrooms for candidates who hold a dual endorsement in special education and another subject. We also find that special education teachers who are dual endorsed and begin their careers teaching in special education classrooms are less likely stay in these classrooms. Both sets of findings are supported by an instrumental variable analysis that exploits passing score cutoffs on required licensure tests to provide plausibly causal evidence that obtaining a dual endorsement significantly reduces the likelihood that special education candidates teach in special education classrooms.
Citation: Roddy Theobald, Dan Goldhaber, Natsumi Naito, Marcy Stein (2020). The Special Education Teacher Pipeline: Teacher Preparation, Workforce Entry, and Retention. CALDER Working Paper No. 231-0220
While the majority of students with disabilities (SWDs) receive instruction from general education teachers, little empirical work has investigated the ways in which these students have equitable access to high-quality teachers. We explore the differences in teacher quality experienced by SWDs and general education (GEN) students and how that access varies with school-level disadvantage by estimating SWD teacher quality gaps in the Los Angeles Unified School District. We examine several different indicators of teacher effectiveness (hiring scores, teacher experience, teachers’ ratings on their observation-based performance evaluations, and value-added measures) for general education teachers who instruct both SWDs and general education (GEN) students. We find that SWDs are significantly more likely to have lower math VAM teachers than their GEN peers, and these gaps do not vary by school-level disadvantage. We find no differences on the other indicators of teacher effectiveness.
Citation: Ijun Lai, W. Jesse Wood, Scott A. Imberman, Nathan Jones, Katharine Strunk (2020). Teacher Quality Gaps by Disability and Socioeconomic Status: Evidence from Los Angeles. CALDER Working Paper No. 228-0220
We use longitudinal data on high school students in Washington State to assess the relationships between English Language Arts (ELA) teacher value added and other qualifications and the high school and postsecondary outcomes of their students. We also investigate whether these relationships differ for students with and without disabilities. We find that students assigned to 10th grade ELA teachers with higher value added have better test scores, are more likely to graduate on-time, and are more likely to attend and graduate from a four-year college than observably similar students assigned to 10th grade ELA teachers with lower value added. We also find that many of these relationships vary for students with and without disabilities, as 10th grade ELA teacher value added is more positively predictive of on-time graduation and four-year college attendance for students without disabilities, but more positively predictive of two-year college attendance and employment within two years of graduation for students with disabilities. In contrast to value added, other teacher characteristics like experience, degree level, endorsement area, and licensure test scores do not consistently predict better outcomes for students with or without disabilities.
Citation: Roddy Theobald, Dan Goldhaber, Trevor Gratz, Kristian Holden (2018). High School English Language Arts Teachers and Postsecondary Outcomes for Students With and Without Disabilities. CALDER Working Paper No. 199-0718-1
We use longitudinal data on all high school students in Washington State, including postsecondary education and workforce outcomes, to investigate predictors of intermediate and postsecondary outcomes for students with disabilities. We pay particular attention to career and technical education (CTE) enrollment and the extent of inclusion in general education classrooms, as prior research suggests these factors may be particularly important in influencing the outcomes of students with disabilities. We estimate models that compare students with other students within the same school district, who are receiving special education services for the same disability, and have similar baseline measures of academic performance and other demographic information. We find generally weak relationships between CTE enrollment in any particular grade and intermediate and postsecondary outcomes for students with disabilities, though we replicate earlier findings that students with disabilities who are enrolled in a “concentration” of CTE courses have higher rates of employment after graduation than students with disabilities who are similar in other observable ways but are enrolled in fewer CTE courses. We also find consistently strong evidence that students with disabilities who spend more time in general education classrooms experience better outcomes—fewer absences, higher academic performance, higher rates of grade progression and on-time graduation, and higher rates of college attendance and employment—than students with disabilities who are similar in other observable ways but spend less time in general education classrooms.
Citation: Roddy Theobald, Dan Goldhaber, Trevor Gratz, Kristian Holden (2017). Career and Technical Education, Inclusion, and Postsecondary Outcomes for Students With Disabilities. CALDER Working Paper No. 177
This study examines the community-wide effects of investments in two early childhood initiatives in North Carolina (Smart Start and More at Four) on the likelihood of a student being placed into special education. We take advantage of variation across North Carolina counties and years in the timing of the introduction and funding levels of the two programs to identify their effects on third-grade outcomes. We find that both programs significantly reduce the likelihood of special education placement in the third grade, resulting in considerable cost savings to the state. The effects of the two programs differ across categories of disability, but do not vary significantly across subgroups of children identified by race, ethnicity, and maternal education levels.
Citation: Clara Muschkin, Helen Ladd, Kenneth Dodge (2015). Impact of North Carolina’s Early Childhood Initiatives on Special Education Placements in Third Grade. CALDER Working Paper No. 121
This paper contributes importantly to the growing literature on the training of special education teachers and how it translates into classroom practice and student achievement. The authors examine the impact of pre-service preparation and in-service formal and informal training on the ability of teachers to promote academic achievement among students with disabilities. Using student-level longitudinal data from Florida over a five-year span the authors estimate “value-added” models of student achievement. There is little support for the efficacy of in-service professional development courses focusing on special education. However, teachers with advanced degrees are more effective in boosting the math achievement of students with disabilities than are those with only a baccalaureate degree. Also pre-service preparation in special education has statistically significant and quantitatively substantial effects on the ability of teachers of special education courses to promote gains in achievement for students with disabilities, especially in reading. Certification in special education, an undergraduate major in special education, and the amount of special education coursework in college are all positively correlated with the performance of teachers in special education reading courses.
Citation: Li Feng, Tim Sass (2010). What Makes Special Education Teachers Special? Teacher Training and Achievement of Students with Disabilities. CALDER Working Paper No. 49
Mounting pressure in the policy arena to improve teacher productivity either by improving signals that predict teacher performance or through creating incentive contracts based on performance—has spurred two related questions: Are there important determinants of teacher productivity that are not captured by teacher credentials but that can be measured by subjective assessments? And would evaluating teachers based on a combination of subjective assessments and student outcomes more accurately gauge teacher performance than student test scores alone? Using data from a midsize Florida school district, this paper explores both questions by calculating teachers' "value added" and comparing those outcomes with subjective ratings of teachers by school principals. Teacher value-added and principals' subjective ratings are positively correlated and principals' evaluations are better predictors of a teacher's value added than traditional approaches to teacher compensation focused on experience and formal education. In settings where schools are judged on student test scores, teachers' ability to raise those scores is important to principals, as reflected in their subjective teacher ratings. Also, teachers' subject knowledge, teaching skill, and intelligence are most closely associated with both the overall subjective teacher ratings and the teacher value added. Finally, while past teacher value added predicts future teacher value added the principals' subjective ratings can provide additional information and substantially increase predictive power.