Study: Great teachers have lasting impact on students
By Dante on January 10th, 2012
Last Friday, the New York Times reported on a study conducted by economists at Harvard and Columbia that measured how teachers impact the lives and future earning potential of their students. The study tracked 2.5 million students over a 20-year period and found that teachers who help raise student test scores prove to be beneficial to the long-term success of their students.
At its core, the study investigates the “value-added ratings” that are increasingly being used to gauge teacher performance. The researchers told the Times they were dubious of the merits of value-added ratings going into the study, but once they sifted through their results they found a real benefit to the metric. Because they are economists, a big focus of the study is on the monetary. Students with great teachers earned more money than students with average teachers who earned more money they students with poor teachers. Students also saw a boost in their test scores.
The work and results of this study are certainly interesting and are sure to be discussed a lot as more and more school districts weigh the benefits and costs of value-added ratings in teacher evaluations. But what is inaruguable is that a great teacher makes a lasting impression, even if it’s not reflected in a student’s future paycheck.
Here at OOM, we ran a series of posts about teachers that made a difference in our lives. The most important teacher in my life was Dr. Sauers, my high school social studies instructor. I’m not sure his influence shows up in my bank account, and I am and always will be a terrible test taker. But I do know my sense of media literacy, my global perspective, my work ethic and habits, and my attitude were all influenced by Dr. Sauers. Those things are more intangible than a monetary figure, and they’re pretty hard to gauge when evaluating a teacher. Sure, you could test me on media literacy, but I’d probably fail it since I can’t take tests. So if I’m just a bad test taker, how does that reflect the value a teacher is adding to my life?
A great teacher is a great teacher is a great teacher. As long as they have the support and resources from their schools and parents they can capitalize on their, well, greatness and impact their students. This could mean better test scores and higher salaries, but those shouldn’t be the only benchmarks. Did a teacher make their students want to learn — about what’s being taught in schools, about the world around them, about themselves? That might be a better measure of a teacher’s impact.
What do you think about value-added ratings being used in teacher evaluations? What teacher impacted you the most, and how? Let us know in the comments below!
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