About half of all teachers acquire master’s degrees. What do we know about how the academic ability of graduate students in education compares to graduate students in other disciplines? I’ve put together a picture using ETS data, but a few caveats need to proceed the graphic. The GRE data I have access to includes all students who take the test, not all go on to graduate school. (The GRE–the Graduate Record Exam–is the counterpart of the SAT for students who want to go on to graduate school, except for business schools which use a different exam.) The numbers for education students include a modest number of students getting education degrees but aimed at a career other than teaching (school administrators for example.) Finally, I only have a few data points so I’ve smoothed out the graph to clean it up some. Having said that, I’m reasonably comfortable that the overall picture is right.
Left graph first. On the verbal part of the GRE education students look about like everyone else. The mean scores (shown with vertical lines) are indistinguishable. The only noticeable difference is that somewhat fewer education students get either really high or really low scores then the set of test takers covering all disciplines.
The right graph, showing quantitative scores, gives a less sanguine picture. Education students score somewhat lower on average than the whole grad-school-hopeful population. There’s a real dearth of education students scoring really highly on the quantitative exam.
On the one hand, you don’t have to be a math genius to teach school kids. On the other hand, the right side of the teacher probably does say something about the difficulty in keeping the schools stocked with great math and science teachers.