President Obama referenced in his State of the Union Address research which
concluded that students taught by excellent teachers enjoy higher earnings over
their lifetime. Full address click here.
Harvard and Columbia professors authored the study, tracking the outcomes
The study data show that students with the best, "value added" teachers scored higher on tests, and among other positive outcomes, earned $50,000 more in their careers per pupil compared to those not taught by value added teachers.
No question that a great teacher makes a difference in your life. Mine was 6th grade teacher Mrs. Beecher: tough but fair.
Should policy makers assign the highest value to its citizens who achieve high
earnings and equate that with a successful education and effective teachers? Could those earning less be contributing the same --or even more-- given their decision to serve the public good through social work, for example, inspired precisely by what they learned?
Or perhaps a student maximizes their potential in high school but does not have the resources to attend a four year college.
I'm not sure if or how many teachers the researchers interviewed before or after fielding their study. One they did not interview is Judiann Carmack-Fayyaz of Bridgehampton High School.
Judiann teaches environmental design. She is making a difference with youths who might not be on the fast track to a 4-year college by involving them with hands-on projects, like building a greenhouse to grow vegetables students can one day eat in the lunchroom. Or by learning environmental stewardship --life lessons-- from local green building practitioners and landscape architects.
Judiann says those who work with their hands can earn a very nice living, and then some. She sees the future possibilities in her students. One need look no further than the scores of successful small businesses here on the East End for evidence of success.
Some well-educated students live up to their potential and work hard within their communities without a big paycheck. Isn't that what makes up the fabric of our country?
As Jimmy Stewart said about money to his sidekick Clarence in "It's a Wonderful Life": "It sure comes in handy around here, bub." But he'd also tell researchers that money is not the only measure of one's success, educational or otherwise. As the study noted: "Researchers have not reached a consensus about the accuracy and long term impacts of [value added] because of data and methodological differences."