Teacher quality matters - extensive research shows that the quality of a student’s teacher is more important than anything else that happens in a school.
Students who have great teachers learn more during each school year and are more likely to go to college – and research even shows they earn higher salaries throughout their lifetimes. As Nicholas Kristoff wrote in The New York Times:
“Having a good fourth-grade teacher makes a student 1.25 percent more likely to go to college, the research suggests, and 1.25 percent less likely to get pregnant as a teenager. Each of the students will go on as an adult to earn, on average, $25,000 more over a lifetime — or about $700,000 in gains for an average size class — all attributable to that ace teacher back in the fourth grade.”
But current New York State laws, regulations and union contracts don’t help identify, develop, or retain great teachers. Our system doesn’t provide incentives for highly effective teachers to work in the schools that need them the most, support effective development for new teachers, equip principals with meaningful tools for evaluation and coaching, facilitate the removal of ineffective teachers, or provide career pathways to keep the best teachers in the profession as long as possible. In short, we are far from having the tools we need to find and keep the best and brightest teachers.
Recent passage of a new teacher evaluation system is a first step in the right direction, but we need district and local leaders to step up and agree on final details for the new system. We need effective evaluations that will help developing teachers get meaningful feedback and identify areas for improvement. We also need to acknowledge that teaching is one of the toughest jobs around, and that it’s not fair to our kids to allow ineffective teachers to stay in the classroom year after year.