As educators have long known, their multiple efforts to help students “light their own fires” of learning don’t routinely work the way they expect. Lots of factors contribute to the range of student outcomes, including variations in the demographic mix of students in each class, the culture of the school, the complexity of subject matter, the persistent determination and ingenuity of teachers, the quality and availability of ongoing professional support for teachers to improve their craft, and the capacity of families to support learning.
In January, the New York Times wrote about a recent study by professors Raj Chetty and John N. Friedman of Harvard and Jonah E. Rockoff of Columbia titled “The Long-Term Impact of Teachers: Teacher Value-Added and Student Outcomes in Adulthood.”
The study followed 2.5 million students over 20 years, and the findings touch on two topics that support the Bush Foundation’s decision in 2008 to focus on improving educational achievement—effective teachers create positive impacts for students, and using value-added data to measure teacher quality is a valid method.
The Times article captures the economic importance of the study’s findings—“replacing a poor teacher with an average one would raise a single classroom’s lifetime earnings by about $266,000”—and also adds important perspective on the continuing national debates over whether and how to measure the quality of teachers.
Even though two of the study authors began the project skeptical about value-added data, in the end the Times reported “The authors [of the study] argue that school districts should use value-added measures in evaluations.”
Using value-added data to understand better the effects of quality teaching on student success is an important part of the Foundation’s educational achievement program. The study lends support to this commitment by the Foundation.
Joseph Dominic is a consultant with FHI360. He coaches the University of South Dakota, one of the Foundation’s higher education partners, as it undertakes the incredibly challenging work of reforming how it recruits, prepares, places and supports new teachers.
Talk back to Bush
What are your thoughts on the study?