Monday, January 9, 2012

Teachers' Worth: The Real Zinger...

This past Friday, January 6, 2012 the New York Times ran a front page article "Big Study Links Good Teachers to Lasting Gain" in which Annie Lowrey reported findings of a recent study by Chetty, Friedman (Harvard) and Rockoff (Columbia).  As I approached the paper and saw the article, I thought sarcastically to myself, "...and this is new?"  But, the first zinger for me was that the this study was not conducted by educators - it was conducted by economists, and I took a closer look.

These economists examined 2.5 million children (the largest pool of students ever studied) from a large urban school district from 3rd -8th grade and then to adulthood (the longest period one particular subject pool has been studied) looking at a teacher's "value added" score and its impact upon these students over time.  This score was defined as the average test-score gain (in reading and math) for their students, statistically "adjusted for differences across classrooms in student characteristics." These data covered the 2.5 million students and 18 million math and reading tests spanning 1989-2009.

Here are some of the ZINGERS as reported in the study:
  • When a high value added teacher joins a school, test scores rise immediately in the grade/subject taught by that teacher (and only in what is taught by that teacher), and falls if/when that teacher leaves.
  • On average, having a high value-added teacher for one years raises a child's total lifetime income by $9,000.
  • All else equal, a student with one excellent teacher for one year between fourth and eighth grade would gain $4,600 in lifetime income, compared to a student of similar demographics who has an average teacher.  
  • The student with the excellent teacher would also be 0.5 percent more likely to attend college.
  • Replacing a poor teacher (whose value added score is in the bottom 5%) with a teacher of average quality would generate lifetime earnings gains worth over $250,00 for the average classroom.
  • Controlling for numerous factors including students' backgrounds, the researchers found that the value-added scores consistently identified some teachers as better than others, even if individual teachers' value-added scores varied from year to year.
  • Students with top teachers are less likely to become pregnant as teenagers, are more likely to enroll in college, and are more likely to earn more money as adults.
In short, this study details lifelong impacts that variations or differences between really good and really bad teachers have on children.  And, while we can all point to pivotal teachers who opened our minds and  various life-line doors -  the fact that this is now backed by economists and with future income studies... is enormous - as are the ramifications for defining, evaluating and using value-added teacher data.

      With all this in mind, I would like to thank the following teachers for having had such an impact on me and or on my kids. [Please leave your own acknowledgements in the comments.]

      My very special thanks to:
      •  Mr. Benami - my high school science teacher who saw through the quiet girl in class, encouraging me to think, grow, and participate.  He set high but realistic goals for me to reach and as a result I have always loved science.
      • Mrs. Gross and Mrs. Pfiefer - my middle school social studies and science teachers who also saw and encouraged my potential WAY before I did.
      • Mr. Sandomir -for understanding my son, validating his feelings, comments and intellect, and for challenging him to write poems and prose that still touch our hearts.  Mr. Sandomir, when teaching Phillip Pulman's His Dark Materials books told his 6th grade class that they were based on Milton's Paradise Lost.  My son was so taken, he read Paradise Lost (NOT your average 6th grader independent reading) and still talks about it.
      • Mrs. Teig - THE BEST math ... ever.  She was tough, demanding and relatively unflexible in her demands.  A bit like Mary Poppins, she would bake and bring wonderful candies and patries to school and nurture each of her students reinforcing their accomplishments and risk-taking while restructuring their mistakes and steps backward.  ALL her students felt her love. Her 5-8 grade math classes put my daughters at the top of their high school math classes to the point that their school had to set up special accelerated math groups for them.  One daughter is now a middle school teacher, the other, having majored in math and physics in college is a materials engineer. 
      And, for all those aspiring to be these 'value-added teachers', here's some sound advice:

        Thanks again to you all - please don't forget to tell us about your value-added teachers in the comments!


        1. Thank you, Mr. Spencer, high school English. And to all the "value-added" teachers I know personally.

        2. interesting! I know we have had good teachers who helped my kids...but I am a firm believer that parents are the primary educators of their children.

        3. Every school superintendent should read that article.

        4. A good teacher can make a student's school life so much richer and expand their future horizons just as a bad teacher could break a student's confidence so that they hate school. We need to appreciate the good teachers and pay them what they're worth and fire the bad ones :)

          Side note: Mr. Holland's Opus is my favorite movie because I had a few teachers, much like him who literally changed my life. Great post!

        5. Hi, New follower from Tattletale Tuesday Blog hop. I would love a follow back. you can visit my blog at:

        6. I had a couple teachers who made a huge difference in my life!

          Interesting facts!
          New follower from the blog hop. :)

          Looking forward to browsing around. :)

        7. Followed you over from Tuesday Train and am now a follower.

        8. This is awesome, have to post on Facebook!

        9. This is a great post! And very important. I too shall post it on FB.

          and thank you for dropping into my A Year of Making a Difference and commenting. You have made a difference in my world and I thank you.

          And I thank my Grade 10 typing teacher -- which was a class that at the time I thought rather irrelevant. Ms. Komaniski encouraged me to excel no matter how mundane the task -- and in that I am grateful because knowing how to type has been one of the greatest gifts and believing in the need to give my best has always made a difference in my life.

          And to Mr. Archie my Grade 13 biology teacher who let a young girl create her own learning path as she could not quit fainting when cutting up frogs. In his belief in my ability to create something of meaning, I have lived my life believing in the importance of creating a meaningful life.

        10. Mr. Peca, who died last year.
          Miss Foley, who was also Rod Serling's favorite teacher.

          On the other hand, there is some idiot teachers or administrators who suggested THIS.

          ROG, ABC Wednesday team

        11. Hi, I'm on the Tuesday train. New Follower here. And, thank you for this amazing post. I'm a product of a very small school in rural Louisiana and got lucky with some of the best teachers I've ever had, university included.

        12. I'm afraid the first thing that came to mind were the few teachers I had that really hurt my progress in school.
          Putting that aside, I have to thank several teachers that put challenges in front of me and saw things in me I didn't know were there.
          First was my high school band teacher. He explained music and what the composer wanted to show through his music. Mr. B. (as everyone called him) loved kids and wanted the best for them.
          Miss. Murtaugh was a fiesty, bawdy Sr. English teacher. She made me fall in love with the classics.
          Mr. Friend opened my eyes to ancient world cultures and as his name says, he was someone everyone could talk to.
          Haven't thought of some of these teachers for a long time. They are long gone from this earth but I am forever grateful to them.

        13. Interesting article. I can see how this would be true. Thank you for pointing this out. Your SheWrites Blogger friend.

        14. thanks for joining *ein stück himmel* with your sky

        15. That sure was a Zinger. The word also reminds me of the Zinger meal that KFC has started. slurrppp

          Pheno, ABCW

        16. I'm 70 now, and for some reason...perhaps your article explains it, I can recall the names of every teacher I had from 1st to 8th grades. They had a great impact on my life. Especially Mrs. Emma Mower, in 2nd grade. I came from a loving family, and she continued that feeling at school, and took a personal interest in each of us. Mrs Ruth Norton, 5th grade, was a peach too. Thank God for good and faithful teachers. I'm surprised I didn't become a teacher myself, but chose to be a Pastor's wife, and have taugh Sunday School for years and years and ........ Thanks for a great Z post.

        17. So far both of my teachers in kindergarten and first grade are pretty awesome. They're fun!

          Zing is it for me. Hope you can visit and see. Have a nice day!

        18. Very interesting post and a great tribute to the teachers who stand out for you.

        19. Zingers for sure! I agree a wonderful teacher will make a lot of difference in the life of a child. My duaghters had fabulous ones, along with real stinkers as well. My favorite ones in high school were my graphic arts instructor (hence my gravitation towards that career) and my Algebra II/Trig instructor. God bless him as he and my engineer father tried to tame my left brain...but the right brain was too powerful. ;-) BTW, I love Mr Hollands Opus...especially the scene you posted.

          I will begin another semester as an adjunct for a Strategic Campaigns capstone course later this month and I hope and pray I'll be considered a value-added teacher for these college seniors before they step out into the real world!

        20. New follower from Whimsical Wednesday.

          Thanks for sharing this article - this blog is full of good stuff and I will be back!


        21. Wow, that is great news! I can definitely think of which teachers I learned the most from and who made the biggest impact. It must feel great for teachers to know how much their hard work really does pay off. I'm a new follower from Wobble Over Wednesday. I hope you will stop by my blog @

        22. I'll never forget my gr 8 French teacher - forget her name, but can conjure up the first lesson easily. She walked out of the room without saying a word (first class) and suddenly, the door opened and she literally jumped into the room saying, "J'entre dans la salle de classe." No response. So she did it again...silence...and again...until finally, a few kids started murmuring that she was saying she was coming into the room. Anyway, long story short I can still remember the entire sequence of sentences from that day! AND I became a French teacher!

          I always tried to give my students high goals - the higher my expectations, the higher they rose. I played games with them to review factual material (Family Feud, Who Wants to Be a Millionaire, etc.) and we did experiments in class with water, art supplies, feathers, glass, rocks, anything I could get my hands on. I loved it and was so proud - yes, proud - when the local high school told the principal that the kids coming from our school were way ahead of other kids with French! When I retired, I heard that things had taken a bit of a down turn and that made me so sad.

          Now I'm enjoying tutoring French and English Literature to kids from 10 to 18 and I love it. And they seem to enjoy my time with them, some so much that they've asked their parents if I can "babysit" them when the parents go away for a week to celebrate their 20th anniversary! I cannot express how honoured I feel that they think of me with such respect.

        23. My first and second grade teacher, Mrs. Auld. My 5th and 6th grade teacher, I owe a lifetime of gratitude and then some, Miss Nakagawa. Strong, independent women who emphasized the value of life and education and always treated us with the utmost respect. Miss Nakagawa always called her class, 'people' as she did not believe in referring to us as 'boys and girls'. Thank you for jogging my memory! And, we should offer salaries that attract the best in our education system. The benefits do go on and on and you've mentioned a few.

        24. Miss Ozier my third grade teacher who I loved! Miss Rogers who made English fun. Mr. Morrison who mde me feel important and interesting, and Miss Evans who wasn't even my teacher but who took time out of her busy day to show she cared. There are more but those are the standouts.

        25. I owe a lot of thanks to a couple very special teachers during my school years!! It makes all the difference :) I'm a new follower! Please feel free to stop by my blog & follow back if you like :)

        26. this post has really tweaked so many memories
          what a great entry to finish with

        27. I loved the news clip! Thank you so much for sharing that. I teach about 70 kids every Wednesday night at church, and I'm always trying to improve my teaching skills. Your article done by economists made me think about "spiritual" economy. If I'm an outstanding Bible teacher for these gradeschool kids every Wednesday night, what kind of "payoff" will there be down the road for them in their relationship with God? Very intriguing to consider. Thanks for the thoughts!!

        28. I love this post! It is so rare we talk about the worth of a GOOD teacher. People always say how under paid teachers in general are, but they forget that some of those teachers aren't all that great. They come to work, barely do their job and go home. However, there are the others that are the exact opposite of this. They work extra hours helping their students, they take an active interest in them, etc. These types of teachers go all out to do their job and should be compensated accordingly.

          I also think it's great that you took the time to thank the teachers that made difference in your life! Thanks again for such a great post!