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Sidrah Baloch

Olivia L. Chi, Andrew Bacher-Hicks, Ariel Tichnor-Wagner, Sidrah Baloch.

Much recent debate among policymakers and policy advocates focuses on whether states should reduce teacher licensure requirements to ease the burdens of recruiting high quality teachers to the workforce. We examine the effectiveness of individuals who entered the teacher workforce in Massachusetts during the pandemic by obtaining an emergency license, which requires only a bachelor’s degree. Our results show that, in 2021-22, newly hired emergency licensed teachers: 1) were largely rated as proficient (82%) in their performance evaluation ratings and 2) had similar measures of student test score growth as their traditionally licensed peers. However, we find suggestive evidence that emergency licensed teachers with no prior employment in Massachusetts public schools and no prior engagement with the teacher pipeline (i.e., enrollment in teacher preparation, attempting licensure exams) received lower performance ratings and had lower measures of student test score growth in English Language Arts. Taken together, these results encourage the creation of additional flexibility in licensure requirements for those who have demonstrated prior efforts to join the educator pipeline.

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Andrew Bacher-Hicks, Olivia L. Chi, Ariel Tichnor-Wagner, Sidrah Baloch.

The COVID-19 pandemic disrupted teacher candidates’ capacity to complete licensure requirements. In response, many states temporarily reduced professional entry requirements to prevent a pandemic-induced teacher shortage. Using mixed methods, we examine the role of the emergency teaching license in Massachusetts, which provided an opportunity for individuals to enter the public school teacher workforce with only a bachelor’s degree. Our results show that emergency licenses increased the supply of teachers in two ways by: 1) providing an entry point for individuals who previously wanted to become teachers but could not meet traditional licensure requirements and 2) expanding the pool of individuals interested in the profession. Among those teachers hired with an emergency license, we find that they were substantially more ethnoracially diverse than their peers with traditional licenses, and they overwhelmingly intend to obtain permanent licensure and remain in the profession. These results suggest that rethinking initial entry requirements may be an effective policy tool to increase the supply of teachers, particularly among teachers of color.

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Sidrah Baloch, Thomas J. Kane, Ethan Scherer, Douglas O. Staiger.

Educators must balance the needs of students who start the school year behind grade level with their obligation to teach grade-appropriate content to all students. Educational software could help educators strike this balance by targeting content to students’ differing levels of mastery. Using a regression discontinuity design and detailed software log and administrative data, we compare two versions of an online mathematics program used by students in three education agencies. We find that although students assigned the modified curriculum did progress through content objectives more quickly than students assigned the default curriculum, they did not perform better on pre- and post-objective quizzes embedded in the software, and most never progressed far enough to reach the grade-level content. Furthermore, there was no statistically significant effect of the modified curriculum on formative test scores. These findings suggest policymakers and practitioners should exercise caution when assigning exclusively remedial content to students who start the school year behind grade level, even though this is a common feature of many math educational software programs.

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