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Study Shows Student Performance Impacted By Teacher Effectiveness

No matter the location of your school district, it’s unlikely that many of your teachers will fall into the unsatisfactory category. By some estimates, 98 percent of teachers received a nod of approval ranging from satisfactory to above satisfactory after undergoing teacher evaluations.

That degree of approval has given many experts a reason to believe that current teacher evaluations are not adequately assessing teacher performance. Perhaps administrators are hesitant to dismiss underperforming teachers because they’re difficult to replace. Whatever the reason, a new study shows that removing underperforming teachers could be the very thing that paves the way to increased student performance.

The recent study, which measured the performance of students in Washington, D.C.’s public schools, was conducted by the Stanford Graduate School of Education and the University of Virginia Curry School of Education. The district uses IMPACT, a teacher evaluation system that takes into account student test scores.

As part of the study, “ineffective” teachers were dismissed; “minimally effective” teachers were put on a one-year plan to improve; and “highly effective teachers” were given bonuses and significant pay hikes.

Those teachers who did not measure up during the study period from 2009 to 2012 — about 18 percent — were let go or left on their own. At the end of the study, the researchers found that there was substantial improvement in student achievement and overall teacher quality as a result of the teacher turnover. When measuring the achievement, it represented a gain of four months of learning in math and reading.

James Wyckoff, a University of Virginia professor and one of the study’s authors told U.S. News & World Report that the results were promising. “Often when you look at teacher turnover we have this expectation that it’s going to be something negative for students,” he said.

When teacher evaluations are more rigorous, the results “are more positive than what you’d expect,” said Wyckoff, noting that those teachers are replaced by much more effective teachers.

While the study seems to be working in Washington, D.C., that doesn’t mean it will necessarily translate to other districts, Wyckoff noted. He pointed out that the school district was able to readily pull from a supply of good teachers in the area, which may not be the case for other school districts.