Teacher Effectiveness and Student Achievement

April 14, 2014

We need to get rid of bad teachers and reward and keep the good ones, says Eric Hanushek, a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution.

There is a general understanding in the United States that teachers play a central role in student achievement and that, therefore, improving teacher effectiveness will raise student achievement. The questions that remain are how best to do this.

By eliminating only the bottom 5 percent to 8 percent of teachers, research indicates that American student achievement could rise to the level of achievement in Canada. What would this mean? All workers would see an average paycheck increase of 20 percent each year, for the next 80 years.

In terms of policy, a number of discussions have developed over the right tools to improve teacher effectiveness.

  • First, studies indicate that teacher credentials and qualifications are not related to teacher effectiveness -- and while schools are not yet getting rid of salary differentials based on advanced degrees, the discussion is emerging.
  • In a similar vein, classroom experience after two years has been shown to have no effect on teacher performance, yet 25 percent of teachers' wages are allocated toward bonuses for those with more than two years of experience.
  • The use of "last in, first out" laws, which result in the firings of the newest teachers when reductions in force are made, significantly change the quality of dismissals, compared to effectiveness-based policies.
  • The use of performance pay has been panned by unions as having little influence on student achievement, based on a Vanderbilt University experiment. However, that study does not show that salaries have no effect on teaching. In fact, initial teaching salaries, as well as the pattern of salaries down the road, impact who enters the teaching profession in the first place.

States are starting to change their education policies in the teacher effectiveness area, with some states requiring evidence of effectiveness before granting tenure, for example. Districts need to experiment with programs estimated to improve and ensure teacher quality, keeping the programs that are successful and dismissing those that are not.

Source: Eric Hanushek, "We Need Better Teachers," Hoover Institution, April 1, 2014.

 

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