CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Every day, week and month, we celebrate various groups and occasions. For example, last month was Correct Posture Month, National Artisan Gelato Month and Uranus Awareness Month.
A May recognition was Teacher Appreciation Week. Those in that demanding and critical profession deserve all the accolades we give them. But kind words and pats on the back are not enough. It's time they received the full range of support they need to do an even better job.
Providing these resources should be a no-brainer because when we support teachers we support our families and our communities. It's pretty simple: school success rests on teacher success. This isn't a matter of conjecture. Research has shown that teachers are the single most important school-based factor in student learning.
Now we have a report that tells us that the impact of a great teacher extends beyond the classroom.
The researchers -- faculty from Harvard and Columbia -- tracked the post-high school impact of excellent teachers on 2.5 million students. In describing the findings, one author said, "If an elementary school student has an excellent teacher even for a single year, it boosts their income by an average of about 2 percent per year." His co-author said that students with excellent teachers "for even a single year, not only earned more as an adult, but also were more likely to go to college or to go to a higher ranked college, and to live in a better neighborhood. They were also less likely to become a teen parent."
The good news is that much of the national debate on school reform is teacher-focused. But those conversations are mostly limited to evaluation, promotion and pay. Teachers also lack support in such basic areas as adequate classroom supplies, working technology, and clearly defined career ladders.
Teachers are understandably discouraged. The most recent Met Life Survey of the American Teacher tells us that there have been significant shifts in attitude over the last few years. In 2009, about 59 percent of teachers were very satisfied with their jobs. That number has dropped to 44 percent. In 2009, only 17 percent said they were likely to leave the profession. That number has climbed to 29 percent.