Teacher influence persists in early grades

Jul 27, 2011

Having consistently good teachers in elementary school appears to be as important for student achievement as small class sizes, according to new research by a Michigan State University education scholar.

The study by Spyros Konstantopoulos found that, starting in kindergarten, can significantly affect students' reading and in later . The study, which appears in the research journal Teachers College Record, is one of the first scientific experiments to find that teachers can affect student achievement over time in the crucial early grades.

"The findings suggest teacher effects do not fade, but remain strong predictors of student achievement," said Konstantopoulos, associate professor of education.

The study highlights the importance of identifying and hiring effective teachers in the early grades and implementing interventions such as professional development to improve , Konstantopoulos said.

"Of course we should have the best teachers we can in all grades," he said. "But if you have to prioritize resources, perhaps the earlier school years make the most sense because this is where students receive most of the basic skills for reading and math."

Konstantopoulos analyzed reading and math scores on for several thousand students in kindergarten through third grade involved in the landmark Student Teacher Achievement Ratio study (known as Project STAR), in Tennessee. He found that teachers in all four grades can have a significant effect on student achievement, independent of the other teachers.

That means, for example, that a kindergarten teacher can have significant, measurable effect on a third-grader's math and reading scores. Previously it wasn't clear what effect teachers in previous grades might have on that third-grader's achievement, Konstantopoulos said.

Project STAR was the first major study of the effects of class size on student learning. In his study, Konstantopoulos said he was surprised to discover that teacher effects over time appear to be as important for as the cumulative effects of small class sizes.

The teacher effects were more pronounced in reading than in math. This makes sense, Konstantopoulos said, because "teachers in kindergarten and even first grade typically see their role as that of a reading teacher, not necessarily a mathematics teacher."

Explore further: A two generation lens: Current state policies fail to support families with young children

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Small classes give extra boost to low-achieving students

Oct 14, 2009

Small classes in early grades improve test scores in later grades for students of all achievement levels, but low achievers get an extra boost. That's the finding of a study on the long-term effects of class size in the November ...

Recommended for you

Scholar tracks the changing world of gay sexuality

Sep 19, 2014

With same-sex marriage now legalized in 19 states and laws making it impossible to ban homosexuals from serving in the military, gay, lesbian and bisexual people are now enjoying more freedoms and rights than ever before.

User comments : 0