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Teacher experience and credentials

Teacher experience and credential information gives you an indication of the teacher quality at a school.

By GreatSchools Staff

Teacher data on GreatSchools school profiles (which comes from the state Department of Education) gives you baseline information on the quality of the teachers at a particular school.

The type of teacher data you see on GreatSchools.org is determined by the information your state Department of Education makes available to the public. This information varies by state. In California, for example, you can learn the average number of years of experience teachers have and the percentage of teachers who have credentials. In Florida you can see the percentage of teachers with advanced degrees and the percentage of teachers who are teaching out of their field of expertise. Where available, you'll find this information under the School Environment tab on the school profile.

How important is teacher experience?

Most successful schools have a healthy combination of experienced teachers and new teachers. The experienced teachers give the schools stability and serve as mentors to the new teachers. The new teachers bring fresh ideas and enthusiasm. Experience is certainly important but interestingly enough some studies have shown that the benefits of experience become evident after just a few years of teaching and seem to peak at four or five years. In other words, teachers don't necessarily become more effective the longer they remain in the classroom.

What does a teacher's education level tell you about his qualifications?

Teachers who have advanced degrees have shown a commitment to advancing their own learning, and are generally paid more for having an advanced degree. Some studies have shown that a teacher having an advanced degree does not have any significant effect on student achievement gains at the elementary level, but having an advanced degree does have an effect at the high school level, particularly in advanced courses in math and science.

What does it mean if a teacher is fully certified? What if the teacher has an emergency credential?

To be fully certified, it generally means that a teacher must have graduated from an accredited college, completed an approved teacher credential program and passed a test of their academic skills. It's important to note that each state may set its own requirements for teacher certification. In New York, for example, in order to obtain permanent certification, every teacher hired must have a master's degree or complete one within seven years of being hired.

Teachers who are not certified can earn an emergency credential if they have graduated from college and pass a state test. Generally school districts hire emergency-credentialed teachers to fill posts when they cannot find fully certified teachers. These emergency-credentialed teachers may have bachelor's degrees and/or professional experience in the subjects they teach, but lack the required teacher training and experience. A high percentage of teachers with emergency teaching certificates may indicate that the school has difficulty attracting and retaining qualified teachers.

Some states have created alternate routes to certification in order to meet the requirements of the No Child Left Behind law to employ highly qualified teachers. These alternate routes to certification, which may vary from one state to another, are particularly useful for subjects such as math and science, where it is becoming increasingly difficult to find credentialed teachers. Teachers who have prior experience in these fields may find an easier, faster way to get certified through alternative certification.

How important is certification?

Teachers who have completed a teacher preparation program may gain valuable knowledge in their curriculum area and classroom management skills, but this does not necessarily guarantee higher levels of student achievement. Some programs, such as Teach for America and New York City Teaching Fellows, provide alternate routes to certification, and have produced teachers who raise achievement levels for students. Another factor - the level and quality of support teachers receive once they are in the classroom - may be as important as the type of credential they have in ensuring their students' success.

What does the No Child Left Behind law (NCLB) say about teachers?

According to NCLB, teachers must be "highly qualified." To teach elementary school, they need a bachelor's degree and must pass a rigorous test in core curriculum areas. To teach middle or high school, they must be certified in the subjects they teach by passing a test, or by completing an academic major, teaching credential program or comparable coursework.

The law has caused administrators to focus more on recruiting efforts, particularly for hard-to-staff schools, and to focus on assigning teachers to classes in their areas of expertise.

However, the law has also had some unintended consequences for some experienced teachers without the proper credentials. For example, Jefferds Huyck, a Latin teacher with a doctorate in classics from Harvard University and a teacher for 22 years in high school and college, is not considered "highly qualified" under NCLB because he doesn't have a teaching credential. Along with two other teachers with doctorates at Pacific Collegiate Charter School in California, he decided to leave the school rather than spend two years and $15,000 on a teacher credential program geared to beginners.

What other factors should you consider when evaluating the quality of teachers at your child's school?

There are some qualities that can't easily be measured but are certainly important in a teacher: a caring attitude, ability to relate to students, organizational skills, enthusiasm and love of learning. Teachers are also influenced by relevant staff development and training, mentoring opportunities and school-wide goal-setting. New teachers benefit from one-on-one mentoring while all teachers can benefit from meeting in subject and grade-level teams with other staff, and having the opportunity to reflect on and analyze their teaching practices.

Questions Parents Should Ask

You can be on the lookout for all these qualities in action when you visit your child's school. Here are some questions you might ask your principal about teachers at your school:

  • Do teachers receive additional training once they are on the job? What is that training?
  • Do new teachers have a mentor at the school or within the district?
  • Do teachers meet frequently in grade-level and subject teams?
  • Do teachers use state test scores to assess the needs of their students?

Comments from GreatSchools.org readers

07/2/2012:
"Most of the teachers in my (public) high school have AMAZING credentials, yet the greatschool certification wasn't so great, for some random reason. I have myriad teachers who attended Ivy league universities, or at least the top 3 UC schools. A few of them even have PhD's. This website states that my school's "Full Credential" is at 95% compared to the state average's 96%. Why is that? Because from what I know, my school's teachers are, in general, MUCH more qualified than those of most schools. In fact, we are one of the best high schools in the nation, and I believe that the hiring process of our teachers are very strict. I am just curious why the "Full Credential" rating is so low. Is it possible that it was just a mistake? "
12/19/2011:
"A teacher at bevis elementary is harrasing a friend of mine and she has proof, concrete PROOF. so in my opinion this school bevis elementary needs to check out who is teaching and overseeing there children more carefully.once you take hold a postion of that caliber you are held at a different standard than anyone else.. profanity, racisim, and other derogatory statments have no place in the school system. there are plenty of more trustworthy qualified people that would take the seat that they hold as they should. if you would like to know the teacher i am talking about comment back ill show you the damning evidance against her its appalling . "
10/31/2011:
"What help do "Special Needs" Students get at Lewisville ISD? Are Counsulers free to interface with Parents on special needs situations? "
10/18/2011:
"While I agree that all teachers need to have the same type of education and they do need to be certified, sometimes administrators and the government place too much emphasis on certification. My son goes to a school in which he is the minority but do you think he cares? No, he does not. His teachers have pushed him to work hard and give him work that keeps him interesed and challenged. He is a straight A student and all of his teachers from Kindergarten through 5th grade have all been wonderful. I couldn't imagine a better school even though the grading hasn't been where the state wants them, they should talk to the parents. "
08/30/2011:
" Face It & Be Real Most often, teachers know what they teach; it is engaging students personally that will bring students to higher understanding of subjects. Teaching respectfully with direction and enthusiasm (opposed to chastising with venom, as an example), is what will help students be much more interested in the subjects they actually need to learn. Youth need to have constant respectful guidance - both at school where 'they are minors under the care of an responsible adult' educator and also in their homes. When they see how respect works - from either place (or both), they will be apt to pay more attention. Youth need to know they are each important and how what they are learning is important. If, sadly, they are not respected at home, they should see a new world for them in their classrooms and may gain strength from it. (Note: If students are left to 'battle their own battles', the immature will make immature moves - including bullying, thus another need for adult guidance.) If a teacher "looses their cool in school", it creates negative energy; when a teacher has job burnout from 5 to 10 years before retirement, you can bet student are not keen to walk in their classroom. If you know a teacher with a sour disposition, then you know 30 plus students per class who are not that interested. Brighten the disposition and brighten many students prospects. You can have a hundred thousand teachers spewing facts all day but unless they each can engage students with the subjects, the facts will just fly out the window with the breeze. A teachers frame of mind is totally key to educating youth on facts and interpersonal interaction. "
08/19/2011:
"Why do you teach turkish language? Probably none of the students will ever need it. "
08/8/2011:
"My son is moving from Kinder to 1st grade. How are the kids separated into the different classes? And, how many 1st grade classes are there? If he is placed with a teacher who has reviews, ca I request a different class? "
07/25/2011:
"The teaching is great!! The extra circular activites is a cherry on top!!! "
03/7/2011:
"In the elementary grades, a teacher, who has no skills to assess cognitive difficulties or how to read, should not be teaching. Teaching Fellows and Teach For America is a disgrace with respect to a teacher certification program and middle and secondary schools. If they don't know their subject matter, how to teach it, then why are they teaching? This experiment in education has caused increased funding for smaller classes, students not capable of reading, passing algebra or chemistry, drop outs and failures. It is time the City Department of education evaluates whether or not teaching is a profession?"
03/2/2011:
"I went to P.S. 282 23 years ago. This school help build a foundation that has followed me ever since.I think about the time i spent there and the teachers that made an impact on my life forever. I remember that those days it wasn't about how certified you were but how you could relate to a child and get them to retain the information being taught. Thank you Mrs. Acevado, Mrs. Alcamash for believing in me and making me the star of our play in 1986. That there gave me all the confidence i would need to move on in life...PS 282 was great times..."
08/16/2010:
"Is there any data on student progress with specific teachers? Where can I receive data on how children perform when they enter a class and how is their performance at the end of the school year. If teachers are not being evaluated on student performance, then how do we know how good they are.'"
08/5/2010:
"It would be important for parents to know how many teachers have earned NATIONAL BOARD CERTIFICATION in a particular school or district when considering quality and effectivness of teachers who impact studentlearning and achievement."
03/8/2010:
"well. i have worked for an nice wounderful HEAD START for almost an year as an sub and I have went to an jvs and some college but thats been between five and seven years ago...I have been trying to go back but the college freezed me out "
02/24/2010:
"Is there any data on student progress with specific teachers? Where can I receive data on how children perform when they enter a class and how is their performance at the end of the school year. If teachers are not being evaluated on student performance, then how do we know how good they are."
11/6/2009:
" More on the teacher's recruitment and character."
07/7/2009:
"I dropped out of BHS of AT.when WW2 started. I entered the Navy and became one of the best diesel men---due to my time at this school. At that time it was the best high school in the US. Thanks for the good start."
06/22/2009:
" i have a problem i move my son loves the school .he is a and b grades i still live in dundalk ican drive him there and back .would he be able to go to the school still."
06/8/2009:
" What is left out at this site is the part the parent, the child and the administrator play in the child's success. A scenario best illustrates the above statement: You are a parent who has one child is in class A. Your other child is in class B. class A runs smoothly, but in class B, undisciplined,disruptive students keep the teacher from doing her job. These students have parents who don't understand the importance of appropriate classroom behavior. The teacher of class B uses all of her trainning to deal with the disruptions, but they continue. The administration does little if anything to change the behavior. The class A student outcome is much better over the course of a year. This happens all the time in schools where success is only 'measured' by data you provide here about teachers. We deal with several variables in the business of education."
04/28/2009:
"I was wondering if the kindergarten classes were half day or full day. My daughter starts this next fall and I just wanted to know."
12/23/2008:
"Hi my name is Wanda. I have a question. Lets say a teacher has her certification and has completed 21 masters credits through cite; can she still be allow to teach in a classroom."
12/23/2008:
"You don't mention National Board certification. If a school has teachers who have gone through this process, shouldn't parents be able to know about it?"
12/23/2008:
"Experience in teachers is great but only if they can really teach in the first place. Several students I know personally have had to take an Honors Geometry class as freshman and basically taught themselves. They were not taught from the book and no notes were ever written on the board. They are given worksheets and told you will have a test on this Friday. I mean every week. It has been an independent study class where only college educated parents could dare to help their children. The failure rate is probably 40% or greater for this class. Not teaching would be a better choice for this experienced teacher. NC(Wake Co. Schools)"
12/23/2008:
"Thank you for this great article about teacher's experience and credential. This gives us a hint of what to look for when it comes to choose a school for our children. "
11/24/2008:
"The TAKS test sucks. Texas better get its act together to create a better way of assessing the needs of ALL students. I hated sleeping through the boring TAKS test. IT was way too easy and poked fun at how 'dumb' they thought I was as an AP high school student. The AP test was way harder and timed! My friends and I joked about how lame the TAKS test was in high school. WASTE of TIME. I never want to take such a boring test again for 5 hours. LAME."
11/12/2008:
"I want to find out a particular teachers credentials for special ed. in Oregon.. Is there a website available to help me find that information?? I was told that www.tspc.com offers that information, but I haven't been able to find the link.. is there another one that is useful?? thanks"
07/23/2008:
"This is great that you have updated and posted this information. I look to great schools.net for all the information I need to know. I appreciate the emails I get about different issues with children and school, you are very informative. Thank you for being a good source!"
07/2/2008:
"Mrs. Opgenorth, my son's Kindergarten teacher, is very proffesional and well respected. I want to let every one know of this great teacher very personal with her students. I'm so happy that my son, Jacob Panis had her for Kindergarten, now he'll be moving on to First grade. Flip side my step daughter wen to this school for 3 years and graduated to 7th grade - unfortunately her 6th grade teacher, Ms Sharp (class rm BF-13), is real bad and should treat these kids bad and should follow procedures as all the other teachers do when dissmissing the children when having early dissmissal from the parents (very scary for us. Her short tempur and constant yelling (daily) could really influence these children and empact their lives wronly. I went to the Board of Education cause the Principa John Ginn, failed to do anything since he is retireing. My stepdaughter Lexus Chiem will go to another school, however I do worry about other children, who will encounter her. (916) 627-3211 desk/(916)501-6911 mobile Thanks, James F. Panis"
06/2/2008:
"the class size ratio for NBME campus is incorrect. The average is 20-22 students."
05/5/2008:
"The large churches all throughout the county are violating the State Property Tax Code and being allowed to evade School and county taxes for not fully occupying all their new land within 5 years of purchase now has to be done in 3 years. JR Moore and DA MIke MCDougal are aiding to keep this cover up. I expose the tax evasion in a paper trail to Minster Freddie Hector in paper trail in March of 2006 which is likely being done by all big churches like Kenneth Copeland, Lakewood. My paper trail expose the similarity of acquistions of Fellowhip of the Woodlands, The Ark FAmily Church and West Conroe Baptist Church and many more who have evaded millions of state property tax and school taxes. Funny in less than 6 months Ministry Freddie Hector has a heart attack while on vacation like Key Lay of Enron whose body was cremated in less than 24 hours leaving no ability to test for drugs in his body that could have induced this heart attack. This crime expose likely involves foreign ! investors getting a huge percentage of the tithe and the IRS does not know it. This is the explanation as to why my DA Mike McDougal does not care about what our appraisal chief Mark Castleshouldt is doing. So huge sums of money or land that should have gone to the development of homes which returns huge taxes are being evaded stealing from especially Conroe ISD. I told head financial officer Cox who was not interested. This would allow for huge raises for teachers salaries to better improve the children learning ability. If the teachers association throughout the state reseach this and make it public all throughout the state we can expose this huge crime and likely alot more later. Will the teachers fight when the School Board likely political is in on the crime?"
03/26/2008:
"I would like to know how frequently the teachers from this school get their teaching updates, because they are teaching foreing affairs issues from 30 years ago. Many countries from the american continent have developed very quickly."
03/21/2008:
"One factor you have not taken into consideration in providing informationally (which is the case at my school) is that teachers may be 'out of area' because they have not yet completed the states mandatory 300 hours of ESOL classes. Teachers work long hours as it is and are then required to take a 4 hour a night, 12 weeks in a row course, or take 2 weeks out of their SUMMER to take these courses. For some it takes 5 years because they have additional responsibilities which do not allow them to take back to back courses. Yes, there are teachers who are working toward their alternate certificate at all schools, and all principals are requiring that of them and stay on them to do it, but we need to let all parents know that the statistics listed are not necessarily teachers WITHOUT teaching degrees or certificates, but simply have not yet met this standard."
03/13/2008:
"How do I find and can I read the approved application of a charter school. I think it is important for parents to see what make a charter school different from public schools. "
03/5/2008:
"California teachers must take one year of post-B.A./B.S. courses in a teacher credentialing program. The year also includes student teaching assignments during the day. Even with an M.A., I was required to take one year of pre-requisites in education prior to another year in the credential program. There are numerous tests one needs to pass in order to become certified to teach in California. One must be quite dedicated to the profession to become a credentialed teacher in California. In addition, my school site requires weekly cognitive planning sessions with grade level cohorts, monthly grade level meetings, monthly after-school 2-hour staff development, and 3-5 days of training while students are on vacation. This is in addition to 3 annual staff development days required by the district and state. We are also encouraged to participate in a week-long staff development in lang. arts, as well as a week-long staff development in math, each year during vacation. This ! requires a good attitude and a strong commitment to the profession. I hear many people putting down unions, however, our superintendent desired to include 3-5 additional unpaid staff development days. Were it not for our union, this would have been gone forward. The unions are not merely dedicated to teacher pay, but to the children. Teachers, like everyone else, see cuts in health benefits each year. This amounts to a reduction in pay. I have worked in my district for 15 years, yet have only seen 2 pay increases. My cohorts and I spend 12+ hour days at school on Mon.-Fri. That sounds like devotion. "
03/5/2008:
"I am an afro-american parent who just moved to this area. I have 2 children being middle school age. I would like to know what the diversity of your teachers are? Coming from other states I have found that the teacher diversity is much higher than it is in the Orange County California and Palm Springs Riverside areas."
03/5/2008:
"WOW, After reading the previous comments: 1. We need changes 2. NO - Teachers who do not have education backgrounds can not take a test for certification and assume the responsibility of 'teacher/educator.' 3. Just because... a teacher has national certification a teacher has 25 years experience a teacher has a masters or a doctorate a teacher has only 2 years of experience... 4. There are professional ethics and standards that bond the 'true educator' to the highest level of teaching. 5. Professional teachers need to leave the profession if they can not change with the time because time is not going to stand still."
03/4/2008:
"I am appalled that a teacher would suggest parents of the child get married and try to make the marriage work.(1/4/2008). That is prejudical to say the least. The main concern should be of the children and not of the parents. Everything happens for a reason. We do not live in a perfect world and some teachers are not good for our kids no matter how hard they try. Some teachers are truly interested in our kids education, others are interested in receiving a paycheck and to hell with the kids. I find this in my daughters school alot. If she does not understand something and asks questions as she should be allowed to, she is told to pay attention. She is a sophmore in high school. If I could change her high school at this point, it would have already have been done. I agree the home life plays a crucial role however if it is not good then it is determental to the child. I honestly feel that teacher needs to retract that statement."
03/4/2008:
"My feelings are that Mrs Mc.Lean a kindergarden teacher at Frost Elementary has all the quaification it takes to be a great teacher. She works untiring with the students. I have seen this from watching her during her classes. She is very enterested in the charges she has taken under her wing. If half of the teachers were as deticated as her we would not our children would be ready to face the challenges of what the world will need in the future."
03/4/2008:
"Thanks, as a former teacher I was not aware of the many things I was blessed without understanding what they mean. It sounds as though I am more than qualified and gave more than I thought."
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