It takes a teaching staff

What impact does the teacher in the classroom across the hall have on your child’s achievement? Not much you’re probably thinking. Actually, you may be surprised to learn you would be wrong. As a matter of fact, if the teacher across the hall is highly effective, that teacher is probably having a positive effect on your child’s teacher according to a new study reported in Education Week (registration required).

The study to be published in the American Economics Journal: Applied Economics in October found this: suppose you are an average teacher in a school with three other teachers in a grade. If one of those other teachers is replaced with a more effective teacher, it will have a significant impact on your students’ achievement. Stated another way, if a school hires an effective teacher to replace an ineffective teacher all students in the grade will likely benefit, not just the students of the new more effective teacher.

This “spillover” or “peer” effect is not a new phenomenon. It has been shown to happen in many other professions. For example, EdWeek highlights research that has found that supermarket checkers work faster when they are in the line of sight of a productive colleague. Before now researchers were unable to determine if this was  the case for teachers as well. It now appears that good teachers do make other teachers better. So not only is it important that your child has an effective teacher it is also important they go to a school with an effective teaching staff.

For more information on what impact teachers have on student achievement check out the Center’s Teacher quality and student achievement: At-a-glance. Of course effective teachers just don’t grow on trees, so to learn more on how your district can build and maintain a staff of effective teachers check out Wanted: Good teachers. And to learn more about merit pay programs check out Promise or peril? Teacher pay for performance. — Jim Hull

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