Monday, January 16, 2012

New Study Gauges Teachers Impact on Students' Lifetime Earnings

A great interview with one of the authors of the study:

RAY SUAREZ: You know, a lot of the schools with the worst performance in national standardized tests are also schools in poor neighborhoods, where you also have high teacher turnover.

If you identify high-value-added teachers, as you call them, how do you get them to stay in a school that needs a lot of help?

RAJ CHETTY: That's a great question.

High turnover is indeed a problem, because one of the things that we see in the data is that teachers' value-added grows as they become more experienced. So the first time a teacher is teaching, it's quite natural they're learning on the job and they don't do quite as well as after they have a few years of experience.

And so in these lower-income neighborhoods, where you have a lot of teacher turnover, that's a further reason that those children are not getting as great opportunities as we think they should be.

How you reduce turnover, I think, paying teachers bonuses, especially if they are doing very well, possibly increasing teacher salaries, providing more support so that the classroom environment in which they're teaching is more constructive, easier to teach in, I think all of these things could potentially be very helpful.

RAY SUAREZ: Is -- could it also be concluded from your study that it ought to be easier to fire ineffective teachers? And I'm really sorry the union leader isn't here with us right now when I'm asking this question.

But is that part of your conclusion?


I think -- you know, let me make an analogy here. Suppose you are managing a baseball team, say, the Boston Red Sox, and you're trying to do as well as you can. You have players with different batting averages. One approach you might take is to bring the hitting coach out and try to raise the batting averages of the players you have.

But I think it also makes a lot of sense -- and this will make sense to sports fans -- that, on occasion, you might decide to let some of the players with lower batting averages go, and try to get somebody else who might do better. And so I think it makes sense to use a combination of those tools.

Here, I think the stakes are even much bigger. We're talking about the future of our children, rather than winning a baseball game. So I think it does make sense to consider those policies seriously.


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