A dozen empirically verified things to know about public school teachers

James Guthrie

(Editor's note: This article first appeared on the Nevada Department of Education Superintendent Blog and is reprinted with permission.)

  1. Econometric analyses continually confirm that an effective classroom teacher is the most powerful in-school instrument currently available to propel student academic achievement.
  2. An effective teacher [three] years in a row can set a student on a remarkably productive schooling trajectory and if all students were so fortunate as to have such a beneficial sequence of teachers the achievement gap between have and have not students would virtually disappear.
  3. An ineffective teacher is the flip side.  Three years in a row of an ineffective teacher is remarkably damaging to a student, often triggering a virtually irrecoverable lifetime learning deficit.
  4. Terminating the lowest five percent of ineffective teachers and replacing them with teachers who are only average in effectiveness would of itself elevate U.S. achievement to among the highest in the industrial world.
  5. United States public school teachers are more highly paid, on average, than those of OECD nations or Euro zone teachers.
  6. When salaries are annualized, stretched over twelve months, and fringe benefits are included, U.S. teachers are paid more, on average than those in other occupations requiring comparable training.
  7. U.S. Education school enrollees are among the lowest scorers on the Scholastic Achievement Test (SAT) and education school classes routinely award their enrollees the highest grades of any major in college.
  8. No differences in student achievement gains can be discerned statistically between teachers who have obtained their pedagogical preparation through an education school or through a truncated alternative training route, such as Teach for America.
  9. Turnover among beginning first and second year teachers is about the same as turnover among other professionals in fields requiring comparable training.
  10. The greatest amount of gain in teaching effectiveness appears to occur during the initial three years of a classroom teacher's career.  After that, gains to student achievement from teaching experience alone are quite low.
  11. There is no consistently positive correlation between a teacher's accrual of advanced college academic credits and the achievement gains of his or her students.
  12. Teachers holding a National Board of Professional Teachers Certificate display a slight positive advantage in terms of student achievement gains over those teachers not similarly certified.

James W. Guthrie is Nevada's Superintendent of Public Instruction. Previously, Dr. Guthrie was the first appointed senior fellow and director of education policy studies at the George W. Bush Institute, a component of the George W. Bush Presidential Center. This article first appeared on the Nevada Department of Education Superintendent Blog and is reprinted with permission.