The Importance of Being a Good Teacher

Anyone who’s ever had an excellent teacher can tell you how their lives were enriched by that person. Until now, however, there hasn’t been a simple way to determine the impact of good teachers on the lives of their pupils. Enter three economists from Harvard and Columbia, whose new study has determined the financial contribution that high-quality teachers have on students over a lifetime.

This far-reaching study examined 2.5 million students over a 20 year period, allowing the researchers to get a better idea than ever before of just how much value good teachers can add. The results of the study are based around “value-added ratings” of teachers throughout the country, a slightly controversial means of judging the effectiveness of teaching methods. The main criticism of value-added scores focus on the inability to account for outside factors, such as student backgrounds, parents’ influence and economic factors.

Despite the skepticism on the part of the researchers, however, they found that teachers who were consistently rated as adding positive value actually had a bigger impact than imagined, even when taking into account external forces on students. Unlike previous studies that looked only at test scores, the economists took a broader view of all aspects of the students’ lives, even after they had left school. They found that students who had good or even average teachers reaped enormous benefits like higher average pay over a lifetime and lower chances of teen pregnancy.

The conclusion of this study demonstrates that good teachers not only improve their students’ financial prospects, they have a positive influence on all aspects of their lives. On the flipside, bad teachers can set students back years in their development. Regardless of your ideas on value-added ratings, this study backs up what most people have always suspected: great teachers have an impact beyond the classroom.

To read more about the Harvard study, visit http://obs.rc.fas.harvard.edu/chetty/value_added.html.

Have you had a teacher that had a great impact on your life? In what way? Let us know below.

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