Article on importance of good teachers

January 6th, 2009 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

A reader sent me this article from the New Yorker:

Eric Hanushek, an economist at Stanford, estimates that the students of a very bad teacher will learn, on average, half a year’s worth of material in one school year. The students in the class of a very good teacher will learn a year and a half’s worth of material.

That sounds about right. You would learn as little as possible with the bad teachers – maybe half what you should, while the great teachers inspired you to go beyond the curriculum and learn for its own sake.

That difference amounts to a year’s worth of learning in a single year. Teacher effects dwarf school effects: your child is actually better off in a “bad” school with an excellent teacher than in an excellent school with a bad teacher. Teacher effects are also much stronger than class-size effects. You’d have to cut the average class almost in half to get the same boost that you’d get if you switched from an average teacher to a teacher in the eighty-fifth percentile.

This is very much in accordance with the NZ research recently referred to.

And remember that a good teacher costs as much as an average one, whereas halving class size would require that you build twice as many classrooms and hire twice as many teachers.

I’d rather use that money to pay good teachers more.

Hanushek recently did a back-of-the-envelope calculation about what even a rudimentary focus on teacher quality could mean for the United States. If you rank the countries of the world in terms of the academic performance of their schoolchildren, the U.S. is just below average, half a standard deviation below a clump of relatively high-performing countries like Canada and Belgium. According to Hanushek, the U.S. could close that gap simply by replacing the bottom six per cent to ten per cent of public-school teachers with teachers of average quality.

And not everyone can be a great teacher. But indeed we all know from our own experience that there are some people just not suited to be a teacher. So encouraging them out of teaching (by keeping their pay lower than their collegues) and replacing them even with average teachers will have a massive effect,

Tags:

28 Responses to “Article on importance of good teachers”

  1. PhilBest (5,117 comments) says:

    Hear, hear, DPF. Don’t we all fondly remember those few outstanding teachers?

    By the way, THIS guy, John Taylor Gatto, is an interesting character

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Taylor_Gatto

    If you are interested in education issues, you could spend hours reading about him and reading stuff written by him.

    Vote: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0 You need to be logged in to vote
  2. LabourDoesntWork (282 comments) says:

    Why do secular materialists on the left oppose natural selection in teaching – of all things? We know how much they support education by all the money they like to throw at it failing to learn anything *themselves* in the process. It needs to be understood by more people that, for the left, advocacy for Darwinism is done for pragmatic socio-politic reasons (anti-conservatism oriented) than it being what their world-view truly is based on. IOW, Darwinism is an intermediate point, not a final destination.

    PhilBest, here’s some John Dewey, just to be fair and balanced…:)
    “You can’t make Socialists out of individualists – children who know how to think for themselves spoil the harmony of the collective society which is coming, where everyone is interdependent.”
    John Dewey, founder of public education

    Ah! the final destination.

    Vote: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0 You need to be logged in to vote
  3. dad4justice (7,776 comments) says:

    A few good teachers might be able too teach children how to swim? No way, that’s common sense, which is absent from education these days. Thank fuck we don’t live on an Island. Hey teacher leave those kids alone!

    Vote: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0 You need to be logged in to vote
  4. Frank (320 comments) says:

    The good teacher is worth his/her weight in gold.

    Vote: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0 You need to be logged in to vote
  5. petal (704 comments) says:

    Thank fuck parents aren’t responsible for their children’s education!

    Vote: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0 You need to be logged in to vote
  6. PhilBest (5,117 comments) says:

    Agree, LabourDoesn’tWork. Charles Murray and others have been making some interesting arguments recently about the effect that trying to “level” everyone through a massive dumbing-down process in our education systems, is having. One result is that less able people are wasting a lot of time and resources, including public resources, trying to achieve a level that is actually beyond them. Some people could actually have become quite successful stonemasons, say, by the age of 20, instead of having years of fruitless effort and dismal failure and nothing to show for it, by the time they are 30 and have not succeeded in becoming a doctor.

    Another consequence is that our leaders are in no way actually being prepared for leadership; which was one of the effects of a traditional classical education. We have to have leaders anyway, and not just politicians. Society suffers from having “leaders” who know next to nothing about history, literature, and the development of their own cultural and philosophical traditions. For example, it is absurd that the notion of “moral relativism” gets any truck at all in the leadership class; Aristotle demolished the notion and it never had a look in again until our modern, ignorant times. I know Rodney Hide is pretty well grounded, but I doubt that many of our new National government are; and of course the bloody socialists who had been leading us previously are all part of the process by which our society is destroyed; the old “ratchet effect”. All we can hope for when we get a non-Socialist government, is no more new bad stuff; we can’t hope for any removal of the bad stuff.

    Amy Brooke and Muriel Newman are 2 commentators who have recently stated that to actually change our education system, (and other departments where there is an entrenched bureaucracy) it will be necessary to clean the whole lot out like the Augean Stables and start again from scratch, hiring only people you can trust to implement your program.

    Vote: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0 You need to be logged in to vote
  7. calendar girl (1,175 comments) says:

    I’m all in favour of performance pay to reward excellent teachers. It’s human nature and common sense working together for the good of students and better-quality teachers. But I’m pessimistic about its successful introduction because:

    1. The degree of negativity of NZ’s antideluvian teachers’ unions will make it near impossible for a reasonable consensus to be reached on standards and outcomes that will form the base for calculating performance pay.

    2. I fear that a similar naivity encompasses many of our school Prncipals and Boards. They will lack the courage to stick to the rules of performance pay, preferring to court peace and popularity by doling out bonuses even-handedly rather than clearly rewarding the great teachers while leaving “ordinary” teachers to collect their standard pay.

    Performance pay is not about an individual’s view of his / her superior performance. All teachers should “earn” their standard pay packet, unless they under-perform to such an extent that they should be fired. But teachers who excel against documented, measurable criteria that reflect improved performance by their studuents, regardless of their particular decile rating or streaming level, deserve to be recognised handsomely in the pay packet.

    Why can’t our education sector unions and management give up their narrow view of teacher egalitarianism and join the real world in the interests of our children. They have barred the way to too many students achieving their true potential for too long.

    Vote: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0 You need to be logged in to vote
  8. stephen (4,063 comments) says:

    U.S. is just below average, half a standard deviation below a clump of relatively high-performing countries like Canada and Belgium. According to Hanushek, the U.S. could close that gap simply by replacing the bottom six per cent to ten per cent of public-school teachers with teachers of average quality.

    Well then, a good question would have to be how Canada and Belgium got to be “high performing countries” then wouldn’t it?

    Vote: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0 You need to be logged in to vote
  9. slightlyrighty (2,496 comments) says:

    Both my brother and I remember some teachers with more fondness than others. It usually transpires that the most entertaining teachers are those we learn the most from.

    One of these teachers was Allan Peachey.

    Vote: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0 You need to be logged in to vote
  10. maurieo (95 comments) says:

    No man is an island. Yes there are good teachers but how dependent are they on the support of others to be so good. If the good teachers had to deal with some of the issues they pass on to there lesser colleagues would they be as good. A school has a dynamic about it, some teachers do the hard yards looking after the miscreants and allowing others to provide a quality teaching program for the majority of students. Any performance pay regime needs to recognise the efforts of all those involved. It would be most difficult to compare the performance of say a French teacher (an optional subject generally taken by brighter academic students ) with that of an alternative maths teacher (a compulsory subject for those who struggle to cope with mathematics). State Schools must take on all comers, on some assessment scales the performance out come is very much related to the particular job the teacher is required to do.

    Vote: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0 You need to be logged in to vote
  11. Johnboy (14,998 comments) says:

    Once Rodney has sorted out the Ministry of Ed the teachers should have far more time for doing what they are suposed to be doing which is teaching and a lot less time filling in forms for the back office team so they can come up with the glib answers for their masters the pollies. Come to think of it the same will apply in Health, Police, Defence, Welfare, etc. etc. Yeah right.

    Vote: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0 You need to be logged in to vote
  12. southtop (262 comments) says:

    This issue crosses all levels of education. I have seen good teachers at all levels get burnt out by the flow of ‘don’t be a tall poppy you’ll make the rest of us look bad.’ I think most in the western world would like to see the best rewarded however there are some massive barriers to cross within the left leaning education establishment. Jack Welch works on the theory that in an organisation 20% of people are stars, 70% are OK and 10% are a problem. Maybe a three tiered system of reward would work but who decides who is worthy & how?
    At a tertiary level (polytechs) the good teachers are rewarded with the same pay but higher student numbers, the customer decides, and no real additional help in the form of say grad students to help mark. Result: good teacher pissed off and burnt out… crap teacher small classes easy life same money. Easy to see where this goes

    Vote: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0 You need to be logged in to vote
  13. artemisia (208 comments) says:

    Companies large and small have had performance pay for decades, probably centuries. Larger companies tend to have more formal assessment regimes. I am sure there are many flaws in the assessments but by and large they work just fine. There are few that do not have a pretty good idea of who is performing and who is not and that information is acted upon in one way or another. Why should teachers be treated differently? Appears that some who have responded to the recent education related threads are teachers and others who perhaps do not understand that performance assessment in the real world is alive and well, and working.

    Vote: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0 You need to be logged in to vote
  14. david (2,539 comments) says:

    hear hear artemisia
    The sooner we stop hearing about robust, measurable, defensible, structured, formulaic, agreed-by-unions, negotiated performance reward systems the better. Working on the old 80:20 rule, we can easily achieve 80% of the benefit with 20% of the research.

    Just implement the damn thing and if some teachers get pissed off and move to another school for better pay or conditions their departure will either be mourned or celebrated depending on the perception of their performance. Either way everyone will see themselves as better off.

    Vote: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0 You need to be logged in to vote
  15. Turpin (342 comments) says:

    I can’t log in to comment on the Richard Falk thread.
    Is this happening to anyone else?

    Vote: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0 You need to be logged in to vote
  16. Turpin (342 comments) says:

    also my post answering Kiki has been deleted refering to http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/myths2/ and it’s answers to her assertion.

    Sometimes whwen I try and log in I have to do so 4-6 times and then I get a funny page twelling me all about the blog system and whats going on in it.
    also lists the no of blog posts and those answered etc etc.
    anyone get that too?

    Vote: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0 You need to be logged in to vote
  17. grumpyoldhori (2,410 comments) says:

    Go back to the good old days of school where one was guilty until beaten innocent.
    No I am kidding, just get the headmasters(none of this wimpy having women running schools thank you ) to rate the teachers then pay the good ones more.
    Fire the poor ones along with half of the bloody art teachers , good or not.

    And proper school uniforms with caps etc would help :-)

    Vote: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0 You need to be logged in to vote
  18. Richard Hurst (756 comments) says:

    I recently caught up with one of my old teachers over Christmas/New Year and we talked about the issue of people who really shouldn’t be in teaching. My old school has had to go through a very long and difficult process convincing two staff members to resign. These two individuals frankly did not have the right personalities or motivation to be in teaching-they did however both have mortgages that needed paying which was their main motivation for stubbornly staying put. My old school is a small rural one, just 120 students. The roll had gone up to 150 after the previous govt hacked and slashed at rural education and closed a number of schools in the area but due to the outright incompetence and poor classroom management of the two teaching staff mentioned 20 students were lost as dissatisfied parents pulled them out directly sighting these two teachers as their reason for doing so. Since these two resigned 7 of the students who left have returned.
    The real problem however is that the teachers that were causing all the problems were able to not only graduate from Teachers College but also gain full registration despite their obvious incompetence and unsuitability to teaching and with teacher Union membership they are almost unfireable. How many other teachers out there are like this? The system is broke, time to fix it.

    Vote: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0 You need to be logged in to vote
  19. John Ansell (861 comments) says:

    I’d be interested to know what you people think of my original 2005 National Party education billboard.

    It was culled from the set, so you’re seeing it here for the first time:

    http://johnansell.wordpress.com/2009/01/07/the-2005-national-billboard-you-never-saw/

    Vote: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0 You need to be logged in to vote
  20. s.russell (1,563 comments) says:

    The point about the value of good teachers is absolutely right.

    A year ago, Professor John Hattie of the University of Auckland told Parliament’s Education and Science Select Committee that teachers account for about 30 percent of the variance in achievement, whereas students and their homes account for about 60 percent. This was largely ignored I think.

    In 2007, global management consultancy McKinsey undertook a study of why some countries (such as Canada) have higher levels of educational achievement than others and why it is so hard to close the gaps despite spending a pile of cash (as Labour did). They reached the same conclusion about great teachers, and the same conclusions as calendar girl about why other countries fail to copy the successful formulae.

    Schools, it says*, need to do three things: get the best teachers; get the best out of teachers; and step in when pupils start to lag behind.

    The Economist has an article on this at http://www.economist.com/world/international/displaystory.cfm?story_id=E1_JJRJJTQ

    The McKinsey report can be found at http://www.mckinsey.com/clientservice/socialsector/resources/pdf/Worlds_School_systems_final.pdf

    Vote: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0 You need to be logged in to vote
  21. greenfly (1,059 comments) says:

    John Adsell – you asked for feedback re your ‘Education’ billboard – it’s interesting to note that you got so very little the first time round, the reason being, I believe, that it is very poor. It falls down, not with your anti PPTA angle, but with your simplistic use of ‘ABC’(Tempted to throw an image of the old Janet and John readers there were you?). It sounds as stilted and out of date as ‘Arithmetic’ and typifies the Right-wing view of education. The boards used by National this election past were, admittedly, worse than the one you posted here but for the same reason. Old, ossified thinking that the liberal mind can spot straight off, but passes the conservative thinker straight by. John – compulsory national testing for 6 year olds!!! From the party that lambasts the use of compulsion! Help me Lord!

    Vote: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0 You need to be logged in to vote
  22. John Ansell (861 comments) says:

    Last time I checked, greenfly, literacy was about English.

    And English was about words.

    And words came from the alphabet.

    And the alphabet started with A, followed by B, followed by C.

    An oldie, but a goodie.

    Or is the order optional now in la-la-liberal-land?

    As international surveys are now FINALLY beginning to discover, kids learn more from exposure to good teachers than good anything else – like low class sizes, etc.

    And the PPTA are a massive roadblock to kids getting exposure to good teachers (teachers who know such things as the correct order of letters and other old-fashioned right-wing ideas).

    But thanks for the feedback. So far all but yours has been positive.

    Vote: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0 You need to be logged in to vote
  23. greenfly (1,059 comments) says:

    John – yes indeed, it’s all about words and their connotations. If you use dusty language, those who have a dusty view will respond positively. I commented because I know you value truth and I’ve no interest in trying to mislead. However, there is a glaring error in your view of education and if you want to front a campaign to promote best practice in that field, you would do well to take account of the views of those closer to the heart of the issue.
    As for the glee with which you embrace the ‘new’ findings (good teachers = learning) pleeeease! please please please!
    Respectfully
    greenfly
    btw – mine is the only positive feedback you have received – the rest is misguided and won’t help you.

    Vote: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0 You need to be logged in to vote
  24. Jim (398 comments) says:

    petal

    Thank fuck parents aren’t responsible for their children’s education!

    Thank fuck my family does not inhabit the same world that you do.

    I count myself lucky that a couple of my teachers did not share your view either.

    Vote: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0 You need to be logged in to vote
  25. PhilBest (5,117 comments) says:

    Turpin, I have often had those problems you are having; what I do is keep logging out, closing the screen, and logging back in again until I get access to the thread I want. It seems to help, to log in on some thread that you DON’T care to comment on, go back to “home”, and then go onto the thread you want to comment on. The system seems to not log you onto the thread on which you first tried to log in.

    Using Mozilla Firefox as your browser seems to have this problem less than IE.

    Vote: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0 You need to be logged in to vote
  26. Poliwatch (335 comments) says:

    I wonder if there has been any study done on the educational outcomes when measured against the abilities of the Principal of a school(s). My anecdotal experience is that I have seen good teachers go bad with a below average Principal and then be picked up again when an above average Principal is appointed. Again my experience is that it is the single largest determinant in the success of a school. Support from a properly functioning Board of Trustees is also very useful but of lesser importance. A good Principal will not only drive his/her staff for performance but also the Ministry for performance, although the latter is a harder task. That experience is both with private and public schools, primary and secondary and irrespective of decile level.

    In that degree I have some respect for what maurieo is saying although it is the Principal that will ensure that good teaching staff are supported by good support staff when required. The point should not be lost that a school is a functioning organisation (in much the same way as a business – oh I can hear the academics and teachers screaming now!) and culture is important and the Principal (in a business the CEO) must be the driver of that culture.

    Schools should have reward processes set up in much the same way as business does. Good process works. That particularly includes having a robust accountability process between Board and Principal, without the messiness of government bureaucracy in the middle.

    Vote: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0 You need to be logged in to vote
  27. Politic (9 comments) says:

    I am disgusted with what I’ve just read from the press! The article in Wednesdays paper discussed the increasing rates of students not attending their exams. Denis Pyatt has the nerve to suggest that students actively take responsibility for their own education when they decide not to attend an exam. This is complete bollocks. Clearly, even if you have performed well during your internal assessment, the final exam is designed to test your knowledge and cement it within your mind, while also giving an indication of the strength of the teachers performance. Given the chance, many secondary school students, no matter their maturity, would decide to avoid their exams if they could. How are we ever going to raise the educational standards of our students when leaders within the industry support avoidance as a legitimate strategy for dealing with challenges.

    (Read the last sentence)

    Results from the National Certificate of Educational Achievement (NCEA) will be released online on January 15.

    Official figures were yet to be finalised but it was likely there were about 55,000 absences from the more than half a million exam sessions last year.

    The NCEA has a heavy internal-assessment component, which has allowed students to pass papers before end-of-year exams.

    Secondary Principals’ Council chairman Graeme Macann said the “trend” for exam no-shows was worrying.

    In the past three years, the exam absentee rate has been between 9 percent and 10 percent.

    “There was always a thought that if we put a line in the sand, some students would just get their toes over it and think that was enough, when numbers of them could have done more,” Macann said.

    It was “an open question” as to whether students were less motivated to finish exams under NCEA.

    “Certainly students in the past have been happy to pick and choose,” Macann said.

    However, chairman of the Canterbury-Westland Secondary Principals’ Association Denis Pyatt said it was “churlish” to criticise students who “take responsibility for their learning and say, `I don’t actually need to do that (exam)”‘.

    Vote: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0 You need to be logged in to vote
  28. kawhi (1 comment) says:

    Politic(1)
    While I agree with the sentiment of your post, your statement:
    “Clearly, even if you have performed well during your internal assessment, the final exam is designed to test your knowledge and cement it within your mind,” indicates a misunderstanding of the nature on NCEA.

    The internal assessments are on different topics to the ‘final exam’ which is in fact a combination of a number of different and independent assessments. A subject such as form 5 mathematics has been broken into 9 independent assessments, some done internally at school and some sat externally in the ‘final exam’. The students have opted out of some of the external assessments because they have achieved enough credits (ie have ‘passed’ form 5 maths) and can move onto the following year without needing to attempt them.

    Vote: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0 You need to be logged in to vote

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.