Teachers add value beyond classroom

January 17, 2012 | Posted in: Elementary, Middle Years | with 0 Comments

A new study says elementary and middle school teachers can have a big impact on a child’s long-term academic, professional and even social life.

The report, by Harvard professors Raj Chetty and John Friedman and Columbia professor Jonah Rockoff, monitored 2.5 million students over 20 years and rated teachers based on their ability to improve students’ test scores – known as the “value added” approach. The study concludes that students who had teachers with high “VA” scores were more likely to go to college as well as earn significantly higher salaries.

The study found that teachers impact non-academic areas of students’ lives as well. For example, students with better teachers had lower rates of teen pregnancy, resided in nicer neighborhoods and saved more for retirement. And, said the study, having a high-quality teacher for one year results in $50,000 more in a student’s collective lifetime earnings.

The study contributes to the debate over using test scores as a quantifiable way to measure teacher quality. According to the authors of the study, “Overall, our study shows that great teachers create great value and that test score impacts are helpful in identifying such teachers. However, more work is needed to determine the best way to use VA for policy.”

Said Chetty, “I think the main message of our study is that standardized test score impacts can be a useful input into evaluating teachers, but by no means are we saying that test scores are the end-all and be-all of how teachers should be evaluated.”

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