9th-grade teachers less likely to be certified

Although 9th grade is seen as a critical year for success in high school, 9th graders are more likely to be taught by teachers who are not certified to teach and are new to the school, says a new study of a large urban district. Having an inexperienced teacher is related to lower attendance, the study found.

“Fundamentally, in many urban high schools, the issue is how to distribute a good that is somewhat scarce: teachers who have some experience in the classroom (even if only through student teaching), who have demonstrated some level of subject matter knowledge, and who have familiarity with and power to access the material and human resources of the school for the benefit of their students,” the researchers write.

Urban 9th graders represent a special challenge to teach because of their need to adjust to a new school environment, their weak academic skills and the stiffer promotion requirements increasingly mandated by districts and states.

Among the possible strategies, the researchers say, is for principals and other school leaders to create a sense of mission within the school to support the transition to high school. School leaders can foster an understanding that the success of the school rests, in many ways, on the success of 9th grade.

“Teachers in schools with strong professional communities that emphasize collaborative work and shared responsibility for students are probably most likely to distribute course assignments on some basis other than seniority or political pull,’ the researchers write.

“Within-School Variation in Teacher Quality: The Case of Ninth Grade”, by Ruth Curran Neild and Elizabeth Farley-Ripple, American Journal of Education, May 2008, Volume 114, pp. 271-286.

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