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January 9, 2012

Better Teachers Result in More Successful Adults, Says New Study

A new study shows that replacing a bad teacher with an average or a good one can translate into a huge economic difference for students later in life.

The study tracked students who are now in their 20s throughout elementary, middle and high school, examining and comparing the quality of every teacher they had. The researchers measured teacher quality by looking at the average impacts that teachers had on their students’ test scores. If a teacher consistently raised those scores, year after year, they were classified as a “high value-added teacher.”

Of course, many factors besides who you had as a teacher have an impact on eventual economic success. The study accounted for those outside factors by tracking a completely random sampling of teachers, so that the random variation functions as the control in the study.

Researchers added that although they used standardized test scores as the main method of sorting high value-added teachers from less effective teachers, that is not the only way teacher success should be measured in schools.


“A teacher who is in the top 5 percent, an excellent teacher, we calculate generates about $250,000 or more of additional earnings for their students over their lives in a single classroom of about 28 students.” – Raj Chetty, Harvard University

“I think the main message of our study is that standardized test score impacts can be a useful input into evaluating teachers, but by no means are we saying that test scores are the end-all and be-all of how teachers should be evaluated.” – Raj Chetty, Harvard University

Warm Up Questions

1. Why do you go to school?

2. Why is having a good teacher important in school?

3. What factors do you think influence how well you do in school?

Discussion Questions

1. Do you feel that how well you’re taught as a young student will impact how well you do in life later on? Why or why not?

2. Why do you think it’s especially hard to measure teacher effectiveness? What are variables? Why are studies hard to conduct when there are a lot of them?

3. What factors do you think make for a good teacher? Why?

Additional Resources

Video Transcript

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