The Long-Term Impacts of Teachers

Okay… first of all, did you know that there actually is a Value-Added Research Center?  I didn’t.  But the Value-Added Research Center, part of the University of Wisconsin, performs groundbreaking work on value-added systems, program and policy evaluation, and data-driven decision making.  These researchers look at studies like The Long-Term Impacts of Teachers that examines the impact of a teacher’s “value-added.”  “Value-added” is defined as the average test-score gain for a teacher’s students, adjusted for differences across classrooms in student characteristics (such as their previous scores). The question these researchers explored in the study:   Is teacher value-added a good measure of teacher quality?  In investigating the long-term impacts of “effective teachers”, the scientists that found elementary- and middle-school teachers who help raise their students’ standardized-test scores have a wide-ranging, lasting positive effect on those students’ lives even beyond academics.

The study tracked 2.5 million students over 20 years showed that students who raised their standardized test scores not only enjoyed higher college matriculation rates and increased adult earnings, but they also had  lower teenage-pregnancy rates.  On average, having a high value-added teacher for one year in grades 4-8 was shown to raise a child’s lifetime income by $9,000.  “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 of the study.

This study, which adds to the already engaged debate about holding teachers accountable for student test scores is likely to influence the metrics by which we measure teacher effectiveness. One camp argues that incorporating metrics to measure teacher effectiveness can only improve the educational outcome of our students.  The other camp maintains that it is impossible to isolate the effect of a single teacher with so many variables involved in student performance (including parental involvement, student intelligence, social factors, extra-curriculars, student motivation, etc.), and we do good teachers a grave disservice by using student test scores to evaluate them.

Nonetheless, many school districts have begun to use value-added metrics to influence decisions on hiring, salary,  and even firing.  It is safe to say that everyone believes that teacher quality is important.  But maybe this study demonstrates just how important, and the long-term impacts that teacher quality can have on students.  Or…. one could argue that it demonstrates the long-term impacts that standardized test scores have on students and that teacher quality is just one variable in that equation.  Student achievement is a complex recipe that includes effective teachers.  But it also includes high student motivation, parental involvement, good attendance, homework completion, out-of-school learning experiences, etc.

Whichever side of the debate you lean, as we approach standardized testing season, equipping students with the knowledge, skills, motivation, and confidence they need to perform their best is essential.  And, according to some researchers, their performance could have effects that reverberate long after the tests are graded. carries a wide selection of educational materials to help teachers and parents prepare students for the big test.  Browse the entire selection of standardized test prep resources and download a free downloadable letter to print and send to parents.

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