23 SES 16 C, Varieties of Schooling
A growing global consensus has coalesced around the idea that teachers are the key to students’ academic success, school quality, and national economic growth (Hanushek, 2011). Evidence also suggests that providing economically disadvantaged children with consistent access to qualified teachers represents one of the few effective school-based policy levers to close socioeconomic and racial achievement gaps (Hanushek & Rivkin, 2004). Unfortunately, empirical evidence also demonstrates that few education systems consistently provide marginalized students with teachers who are similarly qualified to those working with more privileged children. Nowhere is this inequitable pattern more evident than in the United States, where numerous studies have found that teachers are distributed in ways that place lower-income and minority students at a clear disadvantage (Ingersoll, 1999; Lankford, Loeb, and Wyckoff; 2002; Lankford, Loeb, McEachin, Miller, & Wyckoff; 2014).
In contrast to a persistent teacher quality “opportunity gap” in the United States (Goldhaber, Lavery, & Theobald; 2015), research has found that economically disadvantaged children in South Korea have access to more qualified teachers, on average, than other children. Researchers have attributed this “negative opportunity gap” to several features of South Korea’s education system (Akiba et al., 2007; Kang & Hong, 2008; Luschei, Chudgar, & Rew, 2013). First, South Korean teachers are assigned centrally to schools at the level of the province or municipality, whereas US teachers are hired locally by school districts or even schools. In contrast to the United States, where incentives vary substantially across states and districts, teachers across South Korea can receive substantial incentives if they agree to teach in locations with economically disadvantaged student populations. Public school teachers in South Korea are also required to rotate to new schools every five years to prevent the concentration of highly experienced teachers in schools with better working conditions or in more pleasant locations. In contrast, veteran teachers in the United States often concentrate disproportionately in more desirable schools.
South Korea’s centrally determined, equity-driven policies differ substantially from policy and practice in the United States, where teachers are not required to rotate and incentives to teach in difficult-to-staff schools are less common. Although these differences suggest hypotheses as to why research evidence to date has found that the distribution of teachers across schools is inequitable in the United States and equitable in South Korea, no studies have directly compared teacher distribution in the two countries. In this study, we use rich cross-national data from the 2013 Teaching and Learning International Survey (TALIS) to examine the following research questions:
- Are teachers in lower-secondary schools distributed evenly across schools in South Korea and the United States?
- Are teachers in lower-secondary schools distributed evenly across classrooms in South Korea and the United States?
- How does assignment of teachers to classrooms within schools differ in South Korea and the United States?
Our analysis employs descriptive and multivariate analysis of data from the 2013 TALIS (OECD, 2014). The 2013 TALIS, which followed an earlier round in 2008, administered questionnaires to 9,432 school leaders and 170,020 teachers in lower-secondary schools across 32 education systems. Unlike other cross-national surveys, the TALIS sampling approach is designed so that estimates are representative of teachers at the national level. In each school TALIS applies detailed questionnaires to 20 teachers covering diverse topics including their personal background and information about their classrooms. Since each of these teachers represents a separate classroom, we can examine teacher characteristics across classrooms within schools. We use TALIS data from surveys of lower-secondary school leaders and teachers in public schools in South Korea and the United States. Key teacher variables include gender, total years of experience, years of experience in the current school, permanent employment status, out-of-field teaching, and self-reported efficacy in instruction. We examine these teacher characteristics across a number of principal- and teacher-reported variables, including the size of the school’s community and the percentage of low-SES students, students with special needs, low academic achievers, students with behavioral problems, and academically gifted students. To identify predictors of differences in school-level teacher composition (Research Question 1), we establish a model of teacher choice or assignment to schools as a function of teacher attributes and qualifications. Specifically, we estimate multinomial and ordered logistic regressions of school conditions—community size and percentages of students with characteristics described above—on key teacher variables. We use a similar empirical approach to explore Research Question 2, related to the distribution of teachers across classrooms, but at the classroom level. To answer Research Question 3, we treat a teacher’s classroom assignment as the dependent variable and teacher characteristics as independent variables. To understand whether teacher variables are significantly related to classroom assignments with disproportionately high or low percentages of marginalized students relative to the school average, we estimate multinomial logistic regressions and conditional logistic fixed effect regressions of classroom assignments on teacher characteristics.
We find that across schools, inequitable teacher sorting patterns are more pronounced in the United States than in South Korea. Whereas we find little evidence of an inequitable distribution of teachers across schools in South Korea, out-of-field teachers in the United States are more likely to teach in schools with higher percentages of economically disadvantaged students and students with special needs. Turning our attention to cross-classroom differences, teacher sorting becomes more pronounced, as evidenced by stronger relationships between teacher and classroom characteristics. Additionally, the Korea/US distinction begins to blur. Although South Korean classrooms are less segregated in terms of student socioeconomic status (SES) and other characteristics, we do find reasons for concern for South Korean policy makers. South Korean teachers with more total experience are less likely to teach in classrooms with higher concentrations of low-SES students and students with behavioral problems. South Korean teachers with more experience in their current schools are more likely to teach high-SES students, and teachers with less experience in their current schools are more likely to be assigned to classrooms with higher proportions of students with special needs. Our analysis also confirms previous findings of substantial teacher sorting across classrooms in the United States (Grissom, Kalogrides, & Loeb; 2015; Kalogrides, Loeb, & Béteille; 2013). Teachers with more total experience are less likely to teach in classrooms with more economically disadvantaged students and students with more behavioral problems. Teachers with more years of experience in their current schools are less likely to receive assignments in classrooms with more language minority students, low-SES students, and students with special needs.
Akiba, M., LeTendre, G. K., & Scribner, J. P. (2007). Teacher quality, opportunity gap, and national achievement in 46 countries. Educational Researcher, 36(7), 369–387. Goldhaber, D. D., Lavery, L., & Theobald, R. (2015). Uneven playing field? Assessing the teacher quality gap between advantaged and disadvantaged students. Educational Researcher, 44(5), 293–307. Grissom, J. A., Kalogrides, D., & Loeb, S. (2015). The micropolitics of educational inequality: The case of teacher–student assignments. Peabody Journal of Education, 90(5), 601-614. Hanushek, E. A. (2011). The economic value of higher teacher quality. Economics of Education Review, 30(3), 466-479. Hanushek, E. A. & Rivkin, S. G. (2004). How to improve the supply of high-quality teachers. In D. Ravitch (Ed.), Brookings papers on education policy 2004 (pp. 7-44). Washington, DC: Brookings Institution Press. Ingersoll, R. M. (1999). The problem of underqualified teachers in American secondary schools. Educational researcher, 28(2), 26-37. Kalogrides, D., Loeb, S., & Béteille, T. (2013). Systematic sorting: Teacher characteristics and class assignments. Sociology of Education, 86(2), 103-123. Kang, N. H., & Hong, M. (2008). Achieving excellence in teacher workforce and equity in learning opportunities in South Korea. Educational Researcher, 37(4), 200-207. Lankford, H., Loeb, S., & Wyckoff, J. (2002). Teacher sorting and the plight of urban schools: A descriptive analysis. Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis, 24(1), 37-62. Lankford, H., Loeb, S, McEachin, A., Miller, L. C., & Wyckoff, J. (2014). Who enters teaching? Encouraging evidence that the status of teaching is improving. Educational Researcher, 43(9), 444-453. Luschei, T. F., Chudgar, A., & Rew, W. J. (2013). Exploring differences in the distribution of teacher qualifications in Mexico and South Korea: Evidence from the Teaching and Learning International Survey. Teachers College Record, 115(5). OECD. (2014). TALIS user guide for the international database. Paris: OECD Publishing.
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