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Gates Foundation study about teacher effectiveness a must read for policymakers

by The Oklahoman Editorial Board Published: January 16, 2013

How can they move less-effective teachers toward improvement while getting rid of those clearly not up to the task? How should they use that information to assign teachers to individual schools, if at all? How should the information be used at teacher preparation programs?

An earlier study found that elementary and middle school teachers who help raise student test scores have more than a passing impact on students. The difference could be accounted for through lifetime financial earnings, a decreased chance of a student becoming pregnant as a teenager and an increase in a student's likelihood of attending college.

A frustrating reality is that children in classrooms next door to one another can have vastly different educational experiences and that a poor teacher can compromise the work of a prior teacher who was extremely talented. This is true regardless of the overall academic success of a school.

Systemic reform rightly gets the most attention of policymakers. But what gives parents the most painful heartburn isn't a school's overall grade or some statewide policy. It's whether they believe the teacher their child spends day after day with will help their child reach his or her full potential, particularly with regard to academics.

Great teaching doesn't just matter. In the context of education reform and the daily life of inner-school workings, it's what matters most.