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The notion that a teacher can make a difference in an individual’s life is a familiar one, but now academics have discovered that the impact a good teacher can have goes much further than first realised.

According to professors from Columbia Business School and Harvard University a good teacher can affect students’ entire lives, from where they live, to how much they earn and even the age at which they have children.

Jonah Rockoff, an associate professor of business at Columbia with colleagues Raj Chetty, a professor of economics at Harvard University and John Friedman, an assistant professor of public policy at the Harvard Kennedy School say that much of the current data available ranks schools and teachers based on the percentage of students reaching a certain proficiency in standardised tests.

In search of a fairer evaluation the academics used an approach termed value-added, essentially testing a teacher’s effectiveness, setting “reasonable benchmarks for how much each child’s achievement should grow from one year to the next”. They set out to compare like for like, ie those teachers who had classrooms of similar students.

The researchers tracked 2.5m students and 18m test scores for maths and English over a 20-year period, accounting for family background and students’ incoming achievement levels. They discovered that those students with high value-added teachers - whose students consistently gained higher test score growth year on year - were more likely to attend higher-ranked colleges, earn higher salaries, live in higher income neighbourhoods and were less likely to have children while still teenagers.

“High value-added teachers improve students’ long-term outcomes, which means that a higher test score doesn’t just reflect mindless teaching to the test,” says Prof Rockoff. “At least some of it reflects real improvement in student achievement growth that has long-lasting benefits.”

Good, value-added teachers says the researchers “create substantial economic value”.

The research, The long-term impacts of teachers: teacher value-added and student outcomes in adulthood” can be read online.

● For an organisation to succeed it needs a detailed strategy, a series of steps which the managers follow to the letter. But such a course of action can frequently result in missed deadlines or changes which do not produce the desired outcome.

According to Marco Mancesti, research and development director at IMD in Lausanne, the problem lies in the fact that the company has become lost in the detail and would do better if it were to focus on “key performance drivers” instead.

Mr Mancesti suggests that there is an assumption that the tasks that a company has set itself so that it can reach its objectives are the right ones, but he says what if they are not, what if this is actually a false assumption?

Somehow he says, detailed plans, charts and heavy planning systems can make a company “miss the point”.

Instead of focusing on the detailed picture says Mr Mancesti, companies should pay far greater attention to three key areas; indicators such as time, financial and qualitative targets; risks and finally stakeholders. Detailed task planning should be left to those in charge of the execution, not the organisation’s leaders he adds.

Without “integrated, rigorous and constant monitoring of key performance drivers, how can we expect to progress in the right direction?” says Mr Mancesti.

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