CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- The research is clear: Teachers matter most when it comes to improving student learning. The most effective teachers can teach even the most disadvantaged students up to high standards. Facilities, technology, work experiences, extra-curricular activities and many other school-based factors are important, but nothing surpasses the teacher -- nothing.
That's one of the reasons why the state Board of Education in its response to Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin's "Education Efficiency Audit of West Virginia's Primary and Secondary Education System" placed teachers at the top. If we are to attract and retain the best and brightest to the profession, we must find ways to make their salaries competitive and the work environment attractive. When we do, it is students who benefit most.
As Stanford University Professor Eric Hanushek says, a high-performing teacher, one at the 84th percentile of all teachers, when compared with just an average teacher can help student achievement improve dramatically from year to year.
"Extensive research on schools leads to a single conclusion," Hanushek said. "Student achievement is directly related to the quality of teachers. No other potential focus of school policy has anything like the effectiveness of policies that recruit and retain good teachers."
As we work to improve our public schools in West Virginia, we must make sure our work includes developing, rewarding and retaining great educators. Without quality teachers and teaching, we will be unable to provide a thorough and efficient learning system for the nearly 280,000 students in our schools.
The recommendations in the Education Efficiency Audit Report pertaining to teachers are organized under four broad categories:
1. Launch a comprehensive plan to prepare and recruit the best teachers.
2. Establish an evaluation system modeled after national best practices and research.
3. Improve teacher compensation to attract and maintain the best teaching corps possible.
4. Strengthen school leadership.
These areas not only address public concerns, they help move our state forward.