EdNext Podcast: Do Teachers Matter Most?

By 03/23/2016

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The Spring 2016 issue of Education Next is devoted to commemorating the 50th anniversary of the Coleman Report, a landmark study of equality of educational opportunity in the U.S. led by sociologist James S. Coleman.

The Coleman Report is often associated with the claim that schools don’t much matter when it comes to explaining how students perform academically. But is that a fair summary of what Coleman actually wrote? Or did he acknowledge that certain aspects of school quality – in particular the quality of teachers – can and do make a difference? And how have Coleman’s conclusions about role of teachers stood up over time?

In this week’s podcast, EdNext‘s Marty West talks with Dan Goldhaber of the American Institutes for Research and University of Washington. Dan is the author of “In Schools, Teacher Quality Matters Most,” which appears in the journal’s Spring 2016 issue.

West and Goldhaber discuss the findings of the Coleman report on the impact of schools and of teachers on student achievement as compared to that of non-school factors. As Goldhaber explains, there is now strong evidence that individual teachers do matter a great deal when it comes to explaining student outcomes, but there’s not a strong relationship between most measurable teacher characteristics and student achievement.

The EdNext Podcast is available on iTunesSoundcloudStitcher and here every Wednesday.

—Education Next

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