Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Great teachers make a difference

Recently, I have become quite reflective of my life and experiences in education. I made a list of all the teachers I had as a student, and began a simple exercise in remembering as much as I could about each one, and the significant contributions they made, if any, to my life, and where I ended up as a school superintendent (now retired).

After spending a significant part of my day listing and jotting down something about each person, it became apparent that a pattern was emerging among teachers that made a significant contribution in changing my life at key times. For instance, there was a music teacher in high school that had a special way at taking a group of city kids and turning them into a remarkable musical ensemble. His perseverance and dedication were key in my decision to become a teacher.

There was also a math teacher that recognized my struggles in learning geometry and trigonometry. His focus and commitment pushed me to pass and accomplish myself to graduate from the course. And, there are a slew of other teachers that never gave up, and worked to see students succeed. Their dedication and commitment were instrumental in achieving ultimate satisfaction in a career, the success of their students.

There can be no mistaking the fact that a good teacher makes all the difference in the lives of students. Most recently, a research study was revealed that indicated this very fact.

From an article appearing in the NY Times: "It turns out that the effects of high value-added teachers in grade school continued to reverberate into adulthood,". Students who spent even one year in grade school in the classroom of a teacher in the top 25 percent of the district were more likely to attend college (and a better college), less likely to be a teenage mother and ultimately earned a higher income as an adult.

The research study involved over a million students from specific areas around the country and using testing scores from standardized assessments as well as evaluation of teacher criteria and instructional strengths, the significance of the study was outstanding. Great teachers create great value – perhaps several times their annual salaries – and that test score impacts are helpful in identifying such teachers.

Great teachers make a difference. As school leaders we need to seek them out, encourage them, support them and reward them for a job well done.

Chetty, R., Friedman, J. & Rockoff, J. (December, 2011). THE LONG-TERM IMPACTS OF TEACHERS:
TEACHER VALUE-ADDED AND STUDENT OUTCOMES IN ADULTHOOD. Executive Summary of National Bureau of Economic Research Working Paper No. 17699, December 2011. Retrieved January 11, 2012 at

Lowrey, A. (January 6, 2012). Big study links good teachers to lasting gain. New York Times. Retrieved January 11, 2012 at

Marostica, L. (January 10, 2012). New study confirms great teachers change lives. Deseret News. Retrieved January 11, 2012 at