Kerryn Boogaard Kerryn Boogaard
Beverly Goldsmith Beverly Goldsmith
Zoe Bingley-Pullin Zoe Bingley-Pullin

Great teachers create great value:

With children around Australia returning to school in the next week or so, it is as good an occasion as any to reflect on the role teachers, principals and the other highly skilled support staff who work in schools, play in the lives of Australian children and, more broadly, our community.
By Bonita Mersiades
Date: January 21 2012
Editor Rating:

Did you have a favourite teacher when you were at school?  At least one who was special and made a difference to the direction of your life? 

Chances are you will say yes.

A great teacher inspires, informs and influences. But how do we determine what is a ‘great teacher’?

A recent study by three academics from Harvard and Columbia universities sought to answer this question by showing that one of the key factors - but with the caveat that it is not the only factor - in identifying such teachers are test scores.

The measurement of teaching quality is a policy that both the Howard and Rudd/Gillard governments have pursued in recent years. Last year, Education Minister Peter Garrett announced that from 2013 ‘performance pay’ will be introduced for teachers in Australia that will assess a teacher’s performance on a “range of evidence” including:

  • lesson observations
  • parental feedback
  • teacher qualifications and professional development undertaken, and
  • student test scores including NAPLAN and other information that can show the ‘value added’ by teachers.

It is the latter which is one of the more controversial elements of the performance pay policy. A teacher’s value-add is defined as the average test score for his or her students adjusted for differences across classrooms and student characteristics. Supporters argue that the value added approach leads to improved student achievement, while critics argue that test scores are a poor measure of a teacher’s true quality.

The Harvard/Columbia research tracks 1 million children in the USA from 4th grade through to adulthood. In summary, they found by looking at standard measures of value add using different methods, that test scores rise “immediately” when a high value added teacher joins a school, and test scores fall when a high value added teacher leaves. The test scores change only in the subject taught by the individual teacher, not in other subjects by the same students.  Further, the size of the change in test scores correlates with the study’s prediction based on the teacher’s value added assessment.

The authors of the study – Raj Chetty, Professor of Economics and John N Friedman, Assistant Professor of Public Policy both of Harvard, and Jonah E Rockoff, Assistant Professor of Finance and Economics at Columbia – further examined whether high value add teachers have a long term impact on their students.

In a word, yes.  According to Chetty, Friedman and Rockoff, “teachers’ impacts on students are substantial”. They found that students of higher value added teachers are:

  • more likely to pursue further education beyond school
  • earn higher salaries
  • live in better neighbourhoods
  • save more for retirement, and
  • less likely to have children as teenagers.

Their modelling shows that replacing a teacher whose value add is in the bottom 5% with a teacher of just average quality would generate substantial additional lifetime earnings, and that the impact on earnings is similar in percentage terms for students from low and high income families. They estimate that parents should be willing to pay roughly 25% of their child’s income at age 28 to move their child from a teacher whose value add is below average to one whose value add is above average just in one year.

But while all this may appear to be good news for the advocates of using test scores such as NAPLAN as an indicator of a teacher’s value add, the trio also warn that more work is needed to determine the best way to use the value added approach in education policy terms.  They write:  “For example, using value added in teacher evaluations could induce counterproductive responses that make value added a poorer measure of teacher quality, such as teaching to the test or cheating.”

The Australian Government’s response to this is likely to be that their performance management framework for teachers takes account of this difference of opinion on value add by including other measures such as parental feedback and lesson observations. As education administrators around the country gear-up to implement this policy in 2013, you may well hear more about this issue.

In doing so, it is worth reflecting on the teacher you recall as your favourite teacher; the one about whom you reminisce and say “what a great teacher”.  Was it because she or he drove you to a singular focus on academic performance or was it because of a personal connection that inspired you? 

After all, it was Albert Einstein who noted:  “Not everything that can be counted counts, and not everything that counts can be counted.”

Share This Tweet This Email To Friend
Recent Comments
5 Total Comments
Ros says: 2012 01 22

How true. My favourite teacher was Miss Partridge. I Don’t think I was particularly good at her su next (French) but I did become a Francophile in my teenage and 20s and studied it at uni as a secondary subject. I worked my entire life as a psychologist but Miss P inspired me to finish school, go to uni and be a decent person.

Ros says: 2012 01 22

Meant “I don’t think I was particularly good at her subject “

JL says: 2012 01 23

It is about the personal connection not how good you are at something. I remember my favourite teacher and my least favourite. I wasn’t too good at any of the subjects the two of them taught (English, history, sport) but my favourite teacher was because he was good to us and treated us like real people. I ended up studying economics/commerce. I can’t even remember the name of my high school economics teacher.

Lara says: 2012 01 23

My favourite teacher was my English teacher and it was because of her that I excelled at it and went on to study journalism & communications. So to answer Bonita’s point I think it’s both. Being good at something helps but so does personal connection. Really good article.

Jens Schulz says: 2019 09 27

I just intend to tell you that I am brand-new to weblog and absolutely liked this blog website. Highly likely I’m mosting likely to bookmark your blog site. You definitely have fantastic tales. attorney plan company

View All Comments
Post a Comment
* your email address will not appear

Please enter the word you see in the image below:

Post a Comment
* your email address will not appear

Please enter the word you see in the image below:33343

Your Comment has been posted
Cry babies

Dry your eyes!
The newest additions are on their way from the Babies who cry real tears!


Latest Tech Used In Shipping Containers
Read how the shipping industry has revolutionised

Motherpedia cover-2

Win 1 set of a 4-book hardcover illustrated boxed set
Barbara Murray’s new 4-book Sound Stories is perfect for parents and educators and could assist with NAPLAN results

Motherpedia cover (4)

Where to celebrate Oktoberfest Australia
Get ready for this celebration!

Motherpedia cover-4

A Fortnight of Foodie Experiences at East Village
A taste of East Village. What's in it for me?

Globber my too fix up cover

We Try: Globber My TOO Fix Up
A scooter that grows with your child

Throw a winning cricket pitch

3 Steps to a Winning Backyard Cricket Pitch
Ex-Adelaide Oval legend curator Les Burdett shares his tips for getting your backyard cricket pitch test match ready this summer

A bike that follows your kids life cycle - motherpedia - cover

A Bike That Follows Your Kids Life Cycle
Check out the Bunzi 2-in-1 gradual balance bike!

Moonlight lifestyle

Moonlight Cinema to bring…
Moonlight Cinema announces brand new Western Sydney venue

Screen shot 2019-11-26 at 8.29.12 am

Your Magical Christmas Wonderland…
Adventure park is about to light up the night sky with its "Christmas Festival of Lights"

Screen shot 2019-11-21 at 11.11.36 am

The Preston Market Gets…
It's time to feel pumped up for the holiday season!


Bunnings team members get…
Help raise funds by buying a snag or donating at your local store.