Career Advice

Affording Quality Teachers

By Elizabeth Rich — June 04, 2010 1 min read
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My colleague over at Education Week, Debra Viadero, wrote about an interesting teacher quality study in her Inside School Research blog today. In “Opportunity at the Top: How America’s Best Teachers Could Close the Gaps, Raise the Bar, and Keep Our Nation Great,” researchers at Public Impact explored what it would take to boost the number of high-quality teachers in the classroom.

The researchers concluded that tripling the number of firings of poor-quality teachers from 2.1 to 6.3 percent would mean, after five years, that 70 percent of students across the nation would still lack access to high-quality educators.

However, even without firing teachers, schools could increase the percent of students taught by top-performing teachers to 87 percent if, among other things, they recruited an additional 50,000 exceptionally talented teachers, retained the best teachers, and extended their reach by cutting down on things like cafeteria duty. Encouraging distance learning so more students could have access to better teachers would also contribute to boosting teacher quality.

With potentially 300,000 teaching jobs hanging in the balance and a faltering federal bill that seeks to stave off massive layoffs, it might seem like odd timing to talk about teacher quality and recruitment. But students will still be sitting in classrooms come fall and schools still need good teachers—even if they can’t afford to hire them.


Debra Viadero has published a correction to her blog post on this study, and so I need to do so as well.

It turns out the study found that 70 percent of students would still lack access to high-quality teachers if the dismissal rate of poor-quality teachers were to double over five years. (The post originally read that 70 percent of students would still have access to high-quality teachers.)

Additionally, Debra made one other correction—that increasing the percentage of high-quality teachers to 87 percent was derived from four strategies, not three as she had suggested in her blog. Those strategies are, in addition to recruiting more teachers, retaining the best teachers, extending the reach of high-quality teachers, and dismissing the poorest performing teachers as I originally noted.

I’ve made the necessary correction above.

And a special thanks to an astute John Norton for pointing out my error and Debra’s correction.

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A version of this news article first appeared in the Teaching Now blog.

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