New estimates of teacher impacts

Date posted: February 18, 2014

An ongoing debate about the effectiveness and importance of teachers on student performance is topic of the upcoming N.C State University Emerging Issues Forum. University economist Mike Walden discusses a study that could add to the discussion.

“There have been a lot of studies about teachers (and) about their impact on learning. Of course, one of the problems here is really putting the two together, because especially at the elementary-school level, where (host Mary Walden) taught, it can be very hard to track students over maybe 20 years. But we do have a brand-new study. It’s from the non-partisan national Bureau of Economic Research, one of the longest-running think tanks in economics.

“The uniqueness of this study is that was based on a very large set of students — over a million students — they tracked, and they were able to track the performance of these students from their elementary-school days up through adulthood over 20 years later. So this was very unique in being able link up what they learned in elementary school and what their performance was later.

“And what they found was that students learning from a very effective teacher — and how they measure effectiveness was by improvement in test scores — were, as adults, more likely to go to college, more likely to graduate, more likely to be working, more likely to have higher earnings, and more likely to have fewer social issues. So very positive results here from the study on the effectiveness of good teachers. (It is) certainly not necessarily the last word, but (it) adds evidence to this debate.”

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