New study: Improving student performance by ensuring effective teachers in the classroom

A new study (paywall) published by the National Bureau of Economic Research documents the importance of making sure that students have the best possible teachers in the classroom. The American Interests reports on the research. 

The authors collected data from a unique Washington, D.C. program called IMPACT, which assesses teachers based on student outcomes and ratings from their peers, rewards those who perform well, and replaces those who persistently perform poorly. In a nutshell, it worked: The teachers pushed out for poor performance were consistently replaced with teachers who performed significantly better. 

As TAI reports, the new study is consistent with previous research.

…the evidence has been mounting that identifying teachers with passion and skill is eminently possible, and that pumping new blood into the system can be good for students. This doesn’t mean policymakers should construct arcane accountability metrics for the sake of looking like they are doing something. But it does mean that we need more experimentation in teacher assessment (and in our education system more broadly)—and that programs that work, like IMPACT, should be adapted and built upon elsewhere.

In our foundation report, we also cited analyses supporting teacher assessment as part of a broad accountability agenda.

…research and anecdotal evidence tell us that teacher quality is the critical classroom factor impacting student achievement. As a Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation study recently found, “Effective teaching can be measured.” And, as the Rand Corporation and Partnership for Learning have noted, teachers matter more to student achievement than any other factor.

Washington must take steps to ensure that the very best teachers are in every classroom, every day. The state can meet that challenge by continuing to assess teacher performance, providing opportunities for current teachers to enhance their skills, making assessment of student outcomes a factor in personnel evaluation, and ensuring principals have authority to hire the best teachers.

While legislators wrestle with school funding issues, which will not be resolved this year, it’s important to remain focused on the larger constellation of factors affecting student outcomes. At the top of that list is ensuring teacher quality.