Teacher characteristics and race/ethnic and economic disparities in academic achievement at the start of elementary school



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As an exploration of some of the major provisions of NCLB, this dissertation applies the resource substitution perspective (Mirowsky & Ross, 2003) to the early years of elementary school and examines various forms of teacher human capital (e.g., educational background, certification, experience) to capture the pool of potential compensatory resources for segments of the child population deemed at-risk for academic problems because of their race/ethnicity and/or economic status. The research literature concerning teacher effects on academic performance and disparities in the elementary grades (vs. later levels of schooling) is limited, and the prevailing research on teacher effects in general either focuses on factors that are less relevant to early childhood education or provide mixed results. Applying multilevel modeling and other statistical techniques to data from the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study-Kindergarten Cohort, I found that poor and non-poor Black children are consistently the most at-risk groups in math between kindergarten and third grade and in reading by the end of third grade. Poor Black and poor Hispanic children appear to benefit more from teachers who have regular and/or elementary certification than their non-poor White peers. In general, Hispanic children tend to be more responsive to resources in the early grades than other at risk groups.