Interesting article in yesterday’s New York Times:
Researchers have published a paper linking growth in a teacher’s student test scores, what we’ve come to call growth over time data, to a teacher’s lasting impact on students. For example, more “effective” teachers (based on test data) are connected to classes of students with fewer teen pregnancies, greater college attendance and increased earnings as adults. It’s a thought-provoking argument – and the research is both interesting and compelling. I mean, I still question the objectivity of standardized tests, and still believe that there is much, much more to good teaching than test data. But I also have to admit, that after being back in school and working with a large group of teachers, it makes sense to me. I mean, the best teachers I know, including the 3 Teaching Harry Potter teachers, end up with students who generally have solid, consistent test scores for their particular demographic. It’s not a given, there’s a great deal of work involved, but when I look at the data, there is a correlation. In essence, it’s another aspect of the skill set they’ve worked to develop. The issue here is whether their time couldn’t have been spent on something more authentic, but that’s a discussion for another day.
What I found most compelling about the article was not the correlation to scores, but the authors’ arguments about the importance of good teachers and the damage done to students who have low performing teachers year after year:
“Perhaps just as important, given the difficulty of finding, training and retaining outstanding teachers, is that the difference in long-term outcome between students who have average teachers and those with poor-performing ones is as significant as the difference between those who have excellent teachers and those with average ones, the study found.
In the aggregate, these differences are potentially enormous.
Replacing a poor teacher with an average one would raise a single classroom’s lifetime earnings by about $266,000, the economists estimate. Multiply that by a career’s worth of classrooms.
‘If you leave a low value-added teacher in your school for 10 years, rather than replacing him with an average teacher, you are hypothetically talking about $2.5 million in lost income,’ said Professor Friedman, one of the coauthors.”
Even if you consider the margin of error in the study, that’s an incredibly powerful statement, particularly when considered alongside current discussions of teacher seniority protection regardless of performance (using any measure), and issues with hiring and vetting teachers in large urban districts, who have to compete with suburban districts that offer higher pay and incentives. It is indeed possible in high poverty districts for students to have multiple low performing teachers within a given year as well as over successive years. While this injustice has served to empower many to work to improve the educational offerings for urban and/or high poverty school children, the above article provides a new look and increased urgency.
One wonders – will it resonate in any way that will help to bring significant change for both teacher professionalization and kids who desperately need, and deserve, better?