In Part I, I looked at the Richwine/Biggs criteria for judging school teachers’ cognitive ability based on GRE scores, which primarily involves secondary school teachers.
On to undergraduate ed majors and those terrible, terrible SAT scores:
Students who indicated that education was their intended major earned a combined math and verbal score of 967, about 0.31 standard deviations below the average of 1,017, meaning the 38th percentile in a standard normal distribution.
Just last year, the National Council on Teacher Quality buried the lede in its research on student teaching:
Fewer than half of all education majors (or even intended education) majors become teachers. Can someone tell me why eduformers are always squawking about ed majors’ SAT scores?
Yes, elementary school teachers are less than stellar, academically speaking. But why not use data that directly links SAT scores to teachers? The Educational Testing Service released a report on teacher quality that is directly on point–so, naturally, eduformers ignore it.
In the 2002-2005 cohort, elementary school teachers’ combined SAT score was over 1000, nearly 40 points higher than the overall mean that Richwine and Biggs use. Secondary school teacher scores in academic subjects are much higher–math and science teachers are above the national average in both, and English/history teachers above in verbal and slightly below in math.
Now, these reports are only for 20 states and DC (California, for example, doesn’t use Praxis tests and so wouldn’t be included). But it’s far more accurate than SAT scores for ed majors.
But Biggs and Richwine use education major SAT scores, when a Google search reveals actual teacher SAT scores for a huge number of states, and then, as before, they conflate elementary and secondary school teacher scores (to say nothing of PE and special ed instructors).
I really don’t mind an argument about teacher salary. But the data used on teacher quality is simply crap. Next time out, I’ll talk about why eduformers mislead about teacher quality (apart from the obvious goal of saving in salary), and why progressives let them.
January 16th, 2012 at 6:28 pm
Briggs and Richwine mention the low SAT scores of students interested in education majors, but concede that many won’t become teachers. They look at scores of actual teachers in Missouri and at the AFQT scores of actual teachers (and non-teachers) who participated in a longitudinal youth survey.
January 16th, 2012 at 7:19 pm
They don’t just mention the SAT scores–it’s the first element of their proofs. Moreover, it’s a bit bizarre to go so far out of the way to cite these scores when the ETS, which is responsible for state certification tests for teachers in many states, has all the data closely linked. Why use so many proxies? They also combine all teachers, implying that the rate of low achievement is uniform, when in fact it’s been well established for years that secondary teachers of academic subjects have better credentials.
I’m going to write more about this next point: it’s very significant that all discussions of teacher quality never mention the state tests. The attack is always pointed at ed schools and their criteria. I think that’s significant.
And don’t you think it’s odd, how they combine the scores and treat all teachers equally? I don’t think they’d do that if they didn’t have an unstated agenda.
January 20th, 2012 at 9:51 am
[…] there is a website out there, Educational Realist (via Steve Sailer), which made me aware of some statistics from ETS on the intellectual aptitudes […]
January 21st, 2012 at 6:18 pm
As a third grade teacher I found your article to reflect what is wrong with Americans; we degrade and throw down the very people who chose to educate. Why not write an article showcasing the teachers who dedicate their lives to children? You do little to promote change in the system with this data. You are a disgrace.
January 22nd, 2012 at 5:18 am
Oh, dear. I didn’t mean to hurt your feelings. And I actually don’t say that very often.
January 22nd, 2012 at 12:30 am
[…] some charts provided by the Educational Testing Service [PDF download], and already discussed by Education Realist, Razib Khan, and Steve […]
June 22nd, 2012 at 8:56 pm
The scores still seem low to me. When you consider that few people with really low SAT scores (<800 combined Verbal and Math) are able to pass the Praxis exam, the distribution of people passing the Praxis exam is likely clustered close to the averages you see here. Thus, a greater bulk of teachers are mediocre intellects than is true of the general college-educated population. True, the real dullards are also weeded out, but this is cold comfort to those who want to see really smart teachers in the classroom in greater numbers.
Look, I went to school and I know what my teachers were like. They were, with few exceptions, the least intelligent adults with whom I have had sustained contact during my life. My classmates in primary and secondary school who went on to become teachers had similarly unimpressive intellects. Whether this is a bad thing or not is an open question, but I don't think it is debatable that the teaching profession is heavily stocked with mediocre intellects.
June 22nd, 2012 at 9:41 pm
Well, far be it from me to expect you to believe actual data when you’ve got your own personal story!
November 29th, 2012 at 3:42 am
He was actually citing your own data, which is not at all reassuring to those of us who want capable teachers for all children.
And here in Chicago, we have research demonstrating that improvements in teacher academic capital lead to better student outcomes. http://www.siue.edu/ierc/publications/pdf/IERC2008-1.pdf
June 22nd, 2012 at 9:12 pm
Another point worth making is that, according to the ETS paper you cited, elementary school teachers make up more than half of the teaching population. Given this, I think it is misleading to focus so heavily on the relatively small numbers of teachers seeking a license in a content-specific area as a means of proving that the teaching profession does not suffer from a quality problem. The data clearly do show that the average Praxis I passer has a significantly lower SAT score (1039) than the average college graduate (1085).
June 22nd, 2012 at 9:44 pm
It’s not misleading. What’s misleading is to lump them all together.
And there are far more elementary school teachers because they only teach 30 at a time. Middle and secondary teachers reach far more students per teacher.
It’s not terribly complicated:
Elementary teachers have abilities at about the 45th percentile, on average. This means that some get above 50%, others are much lower.
Secondary school teachers in content areas are drawn almost entirely from the top half of the ability distribution.
To ignore that difference is to lie.
June 24th, 2012 at 2:39 pm
Education reformers focus more attention on teacher quality at the elementary school level than at any other level. Although much of what they think is illogical, this seems to make sense to me. Education builds over time, so one would expect that the earlier the improvement the better the end result will be.
The possibility that much of the teacher quality problems are confined to elementary schools is not very encouraging.
June 24th, 2012 at 5:30 pm
While it might seem to make sense, there’s no evidence supporting the belief that “gettting them ready early” has any impact. For example, while KIPP followed its students through to see how many graduated from college, it never gave info (that it certainly must have) on the students’ academic achievement in high school. I’m sure KIPP would have provided the data had it shown an impressive boost.
Besides, it doesn’t make sense, despite the temptation. Elementary school is easier than high school–and the data shows it. Kids do better in elementary school than they do in high school–despite the supposedly terrible teachers.
July 23rd, 2012 at 12:47 am
[…] doing their best to ignore this gaping hole in their argument. They push the bogus factoid about ed majors’ SAT scores, demand that our teachers be drawn from the top 30% of our college graduates, and do everything […]
August 7th, 2012 at 2:36 pm
[…] this for America, at least. There is no evidence that smarter teachers make better teachers and our teachers are smart enough. And yes, many people with less than exceptional content knowledge make very good teachers, and […]
August 23rd, 2012 at 4:56 pm
“No teacher ever failed from ignorance.”
A teacher fails because he doesn’t know how to get the material through to the kids. Case in point: I taught French for a while. Was I fluent? On the BYU test, I was a little under 500 on a 0-900 scale. The rest of the foreign language teachers were way over me in knowledge of their languages (there were some native speakers). But I was the only teacher who said to hell with the textbook, and used a conversation-based method. As a result, I had 9th graders who passed college placement tests. Why? I made sure that they actually internalized what I taught them. It was pitiful seeing kids who after 2 years of FL with a fluent speaker, had learned almost nothing.
August 29th, 2012 at 11:42 am
[…] Baumiol Effect, still a huge problem. Even if teacher quality were a problem—and it’s not—transforming teacher quality wouldn’t do a thing to cut costs. Nor would higher […]
October 27th, 2012 at 9:30 pm
[…] Teacher Quality Pseudofacts, Part II […]
November 28th, 2012 at 11:10 am
[…] at grossly distorted stats suggesting that all teachers, regardless of content area, have low SAT […]
December 21st, 2012 at 5:10 pm
[…] showing that teachers have less academic qualification to teach than other college graduates was so shoddy, their own right-wing think tanks banished it from their […]
December 21st, 2012 at 9:09 pm
[…] showing that teachers have less academic qualification to teach than other college graduates was so shoddy, their own right-wing think tanks banished it from their websites.” Really? Google “biggs […]
January 2nd, 2013 at 2:36 am
[…] Teacher Quality Pseudofacts, Part II. This article was responsible for most of the atypically high activity in January and is third on my overall list. Google “teacher SAT scores” and the search returns my article on the first page. I can’t count the number of times I’ve been reading a blog on an entirely unrelated subject and seen commenter A sneer about crappy teacher SAT scores, and commenter B slam back with a link to this article. This is a high information value post that gets used a lot. Deeply satisfying. Eat that, Biggs and Richwine. […]
April 3rd, 2013 at 8:01 am
[…] Quality in a Changing Policy Landscape: Improvements in the Teacher Pool.” I was led to it by EdRealist.) While this doesn’t cover all potential teachers, it does do a nice job of dicing the data […]
May 2nd, 2013 at 4:58 am
[…] doing quite well. It’s only in advanced math, when the teachers are much more knowledgeable, with higher SAT scores and tougher credentialling tests, that student performance starts to decline […]
May 6th, 2013 at 1:25 am
[…] Teacher Quality Pseudofacts, Part II […]
May 12th, 2013 at 5:03 pm
[…] first ran into Jason Richwine’s name while writing part one and part two of Teacher Quality Pseudofacts, and I know this because I had to keep referring to the study to get […]
July 14th, 2013 at 6:54 pm
[…] think math teachers are morons. On the plus side, they think we’re the smartest of teachers. (Which we are, but that’s another subject.) There’s still other folks who complain because ed schools […]
September 4th, 2013 at 4:25 pm
After years of assertions that Louisiana’s educational deficiencies were because of incompetent teachers;
This should be real man-bites-dog stuff, but only the Advocate put it on the front page; the _Times Picayune_ (nola.com) buried it.
Who will be the next scapegoat?
October 31st, 2013 at 9:53 am
[…] about this extensively, but I’ll just link in #5 on the list of heavily trafficked posts, Teacher Quality Pseudofacts, Part II, which has the most linked image on this site, and a link to this ETS report on teacher […]
December 1st, 2013 at 12:00 am
[…] Why not blame unintelligent teachers? Why not blame unions that protect those teachers? Because teachers aren’t incompetent, there’s vanishingly little evidence that teacher smarts affect educational outcomes, and […]
January 1st, 2014 at 3:12 pm
[…] yet. I’ve convinced a good many people that teachers aren’t low-achieving, scoffed at the pretend fuss over the lack of minority teachers, but also argue that teacher […]
June 4th, 2014 at 12:45 pm
[…] um, ed schools already overproduce elementary school teachers. (I don’t think they do so deliberately—my sense is a lot of unmotivated women who just […]
June 25th, 2014 at 9:11 pm
[…] I’ve been saying forever, not all teachers have education degrees, and not all education BAs become teachers. I am reasonably certain, even though I can’t confirm this, that most teachers who have BAs […]
March 1st, 2017 at 9:46 am
[…] best the story might barely hint that the lack might involve the challenging (to some) credential […]
December 28th, 2017 at 1:02 am
[…] schools seem to be producing too many elementary school teachers. One of the first big pieces I ever wrote referenced a study showing that just 77,000 of the 186,000 teacher class of 2010 took […]
March 17th, 2018 at 7:39 pm
[…] Sailer noticed something I’d missed in my original post on teacher SAT scores—namely, teachers had strong verbal scores regardless of the subject taught. Law, too, is a […]
December 9th, 2021 at 12:30 am
[…] that education majors in college have some of the lowest SAT / ACT scores of any major. The Education Realist blog points out, however, that a large fraction of those dumb ed majors fail to […]
January 3rd, 2022 at 8:09 pm
[…] Teacher Quality Pseudofacts, Part II–January 15, 2012 This is a top 20 all-time post and was a steady performer for years. I almost didn’t include it; today it seems kind of old hat. But in fairness, that’s like saying 1933’s 42nd Street is cliché because it uses all the old tropes about movie musicals. It didn’t use them. It invented them. When I wrote this article, it was common wisdom that teachers were low-skilled, low-quality, and not very bright. Only the terminally uninformed, the amateurs and the hacks, have made that claim in four or five years. I like to think Pseudofacts has had something to do with that change, because of the very easily found data I brought to light. ignore me, lazy way to space […]