The U.S. Department of Education soft-pedaled the teacher quality requirement in the early years, probably because of pressure from the states. But as of this month, states and districts that wish to keep receiving federal school aid must file plans with the Department of Education explaining how they intend to reach the teacher quality goal. Meanwhile, the importance of that goal was just underscored by a nonpartisan Washington think tank, the Education Trust, in a study on the effects of teacher training and experience on student performance.
Skeptics have often expressed doubt that good teachers would make any difference in the lives of the country’s poorest students, who typically show up in first grade not at all prepared to learn. The Education Trust study, which draws on a treasure-trove of data from several states, clearly refutes this notion. The most important data set comes from Illinois, where researchers scrutinized the work and qualifications of 140,000 teachers, all of whom were assigned quality ratings based on several indicators, including where they attended college and how much experience they had.