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Learning What Good Teachers Do

Exactly how much impact does a teacher have on a student’s academic success? That’s a good question, and not one for which there’s a good, empirical answer.

That could soon change, though, thanks to research being done by a national education-reform partnership.

In general, we know that teacher effectiveness is the most important factor influencing student achievement, and that as teacher effectiveness increases, lower-achieving students are the first to benefit.

Yet surprisingly, there’s little hard data on the impact that specific teaching practices have on student outcomes. Teacher effectiveness matters, but we need to know much more about how to measure it.

Defining the links between teacher effectiveness and student achievement is one of the goals of the National Comprehensive Center for Teacher Quality (, a federally funded collaboration among the Education Commission of the States, ETS, Learning Point Associates, and Vanderbilt University.

The center works to strengthen the quality of teaching throughout the country, especially in highpoverty, low-performing, and hard-to-staff schools, and to bolster recruitment of special education, math and science teachers in at-risk schools.

Among other initiatives, the National Comprehensive Center developed a planning tool to help states show their progress in meeting federal requirements to ensure that highpoverty schools are staffed with highly qualifi ed, experienced teachers. The planning tool will also help states collect data for ongoing analysis of the quality of teaching and learning in their schools.

Teaching is as much art as science. But the more we learn about what makes a good teacher good, the better able we’ll be to improve teaching everywhere.

ETS is proud to be part of the National Comprehensive Center for Teacher Quality. It’s one of the ways in which we’re listening to educators, parents and policymakers, learning from sound research, and leading the effort to achieve informed public policy and informed educational practice.

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