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Study of Students' Gains from Good Teachers Affirms ACE's Focus

Written by William Schmitt on Thursday, 19 January 2012.

A major new study of teachers' long-term impacts on their students affirms ACE's commitment to form and support excellent teachers as a key part of its mission to sustain, strengthen, and transform Catholic K-12 schools.

The New York Times summarized the results of the study in a January 6, 2012, story: "Elementary and middle-school teachers who help raise their students' standardized-test scores seem to have a wide-ranging, lasting positive effect on those students' lives beyond academics." The effect includes higher college enrollment rates, higher earnings, and lower teenage-pregnancy rates.

The study, conducted by three Ivy League economists who monitored 2.5 million students over a period of 20 years, asserts that high-quality teachers can make a large, measurable difference for their students over time. The scholars have been disseminating their results in a report, The Long-Term Impacts of Teachers: Teacher Value-Added and Student Outcomes in Adulthood, not yet peer-reviewed but available online. Value-added is measured here by students' improvements in standardized-test scores.

The report "underscores that by focusing on teacher quality, ACE has been investing in all the right things," comments Dr. Christian Dallavis, director of the Notre Dame ACE Academy initiative in the Alliance for Catholic Education (ACE) at the University of Notre Dame. "And the study highlights the urgency of our mission to help teachers focus on student growth."

ACE's formation programs have been educating teachers for service In Catholic schools since it was founded in 1993. Participants in the ACE Teaching Fellows program are selected in a competitive process from among talented college graduates across the country who are passionate about serving young people through Catholic education. Three "pillars" in ACE's approach to formation of educators emphasize professional service, community life, and spiritual growth.

Other ACE programs also support the teaching function in a range of ways. One program, the Notre Dame ACE Academies initiative, currently supports three under-resourced elementary schools in partnership with the Diocese of Tucson. The commitment to provide an excellent education to the at-risk children in these schools emphasizes resources for high-quality teaching and measurement of student performance.

"This research informs our Notre Dame ACE Academies efforts by helping us deploy our resources more effectively," says Dallavis. "We use value-added test scores to identify both the teachers who need the most support as well as the teachers whose skills qualify them to mentor their colleagues."

The study—by Raj Chetty and John N. Friedman, both of Harvard University, and Jonah E. Rockoff of Columbia University—can be accessed at the harvard.edu website. New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof highlighted the importance of the findings in a Jan. 11 op-ed piece.

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