It is a myth that teaching experience does not matter. By sharing the story of Justin Minkel—Arkansas teacher who leads without leaving the classroom—and sharing quantitative evidence, I hope to dispel that myth by showing that teaching experience does indeed matter for student achievement.

A few weeks ago Justin Minkel penned a powerful piece in Education Week Teacher on why teaching experience is so important for student learning. Justin is an expert teacher from Springdale, Arkansas—a teacherpreneur who leads without leaving the classroom. (You must see one of his CTQ Collab stories of impact as a teacher leader and the role he played in creating a home-school library initiative for his district.)

Justin is a prolific teacher blogger whose insights are always sharp; his words are perfectly precise; and his stories are deeply compelling. And his blog that “demolish(es) the myth of the grumpy, crusty, burned out veteran teacher” is no exception.

It is a myth that teaching experience does not matter—and Justin unpacks the misconception through the lens of his experience as a Teach for America (TFA) recruit who has continued to improve his effectiveness over time. Justin is now a 14-year veteran, and his story of late poignantly points to how Mr. VanSlyke helped him begin developing his knowledge of how to teach, while a work-study student in college. He describes how Ms. Robledo mentored him as a new recruit in a Harlem school—teaching him how to teach in ways his six-week TFA training program did (and could) not. Now as an experienced teacher himself, Justin continues to learn from his children’s own teachers—like Ms. Armendariz who has taught art to a generation of young people as a means to learn how to love learning. Justin notes, “Their influence on students and colleagues is like sunlight to plants; it nurtures and sustains everyone in their reach.”

Hopefully, Justin’s story of the importance of teaching experience opens a window for the facts to come in for school reformers and policymakers alike.

Over the last several years, researchers have assembled quantitative evidence that teaching experience does indeed matter for student achievement. The Learning Policy Institute has published a comprehensive review of the evidence. Justin’s story in Education Week Teacher puts an exclamation point on these three in particular:

  • Matt Kraft and John Papay found teachers become more effective and improve at faster rates, as measured by the achievement of the students they teach, if they are in schools with more professional working environments (e.g., more collaboration among teaching colleagues, time and resources to improve their instruction).
  • Ben Ost discovered that teachers who have repeated experience teaching the same grade level or subject area improve more rapidly than those whose experience is in varied grade levels or subjects.
  • Kirabo Jackson and Elias Bruegmann surfaced that teachers whose peers had more experience tended to have improved student outcomes—and those benefits accrue over time.

Some studies showing that teaching experience plateaus after just two to three years — the ones that school reformers have cited in the past—often use cross-sectional data sets that compare distinct cohorts of teachers with different experience levels during a single school year. These newer studies, using a more precise methodology, rely on “teacher fixed effects”—which allow investigators to compare teachers to themselves over time as they gain more experience.

Source: LPI 2016

Thank you, Justin, for telling the story of what you have experienced as a teacher—as you continue to become more effective over time. I am grateful for you—as an expert teacher and a powerful leader in the field of education who leads without leaving the classroom.

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