Teacher Quality Matters, So Do State Regulations
In recent years, researchers have been making clear what parents have known all along: teacher quality matters. As President Barack Obama said in a town hall meeting right here in Missouri, the “single most important factor in the classroom is the quality of the person standing at the front of the classroom.” On this matter, the president is correct. He expanded on this point in his 2012 State of the Union address: “We know a good teacher can increase the lifetime income of a classroom by over $250,000. A great teacher can offer an escape from poverty to the child who dreams beyond his circumstance.” The president was citing one of the most important and impressive studies of teacher effectiveness, where researchers were able to link tax records to student achievement of more than 2.5 million children. The authors found significant relationships between a teacher’s ability to improve student achievement and their students’ outcomes later in life. Students with highly effective teachers were “more likely to attend college, attend higher-ranked colleges, earn higher salaries, live in higher [socioeconomic status] neighborhoods, and save for retirement.” Moreover, students with great teachers were less likely to have children as teenagers. The effect of being in a top 5 percent teacher’s classroom is money in the bank, increasing an individual’s lifetime earnings by $50,000.