Ideas & Innovations

Teacher Experience: What Does the Research Say?

March 12, 2012



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For decades, most schools have operated under the assumption that more years in the classroom means better performance on the job.  It’s why so many critical policies – from teachers' pay scales to tenure standards to decisions about layoffs – have traditionally been based on seniority alone.

The real story isn’t so simple. Research about classroom experience makes two things clear: It matters some, but it’s not the only thing that matters. In fact, in the larger scheme of things, seniority by itself is not a very good predictor of teacher performance. 

Here’s what we know:

1. Experience makes a difference – especially at the beginning of a teacher’s career.

2. However, most teachers reach their peak after about five years in the classroom.

3. In addition, teacher performance varies at all levels of experience.

The bottom line: Experience helps, but it doesn’t tell the full story – and it doesn’t guarantee excellence.

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