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Why Teachers Matter, and Why They Always Will

Why teachers matterIt doesn’t matter how many laptops a classroom has. It isn’t important how many posters line the walls or what type of clothing is permitted in schools. What matters most to students’ education is undeniably, unequivocally teachers.

Students know better than anyone the power of a good teacher, but the education system struggles to understand how this one, simple, fallible resource could be so vital in producing smart, successful citizens. Yet, even after countless studies, the results remain the same: We need teachers, now and forever. Here’s why.

The Quantified Impact

Teachers are expensive – a fact that has encouraged countless research on teacher effectiveness to better place value on their roles. Yet, nearly every study concludes that well-trained teachers are more than worth the expense; in fact, we may not be paying them nearly enough.

A single good teacher, one who has consistently produced students with high-achievement scores in standardized tests, can influence students’ performance for years to come. Perhaps the most striking evidence of teachers’ value comes from the University of Tennessee, which measured student outcomes amongst students paired with teachers who typically produced high-achievers as well as students assigned to teachers with lower results.

On standardized tests, students who received instruction from three high-performing teachers in a row scored on average in the 96th percentile, while their peers, who were placed with three years of low-performing teachers, scored within the 44th percentile in the same tests. That 52 percentile difference is staggering, and could mean the difference between a lifetime of success or disappointment for entire classes of students.

It is important to note that effective teachers not only improve a student’s test scores; he or she also tends to inspire confidence and a love of learning that continues to benefit students even after their formative years. One study discovered that personal and family characteristics – like a low level of intellect, malnutrition, a bad attitude, or lack of motivation – have four to eight times the impact of teachers on student achievement. However, the same study found that an effective teacher has the ability to elevate those students who may fall behind due to natural and environmental detriments. Even when family, friends, and neighbors limit a student’s abilities, a good teacher can still inspire a passion for knowledge and success in school.


Valuable Qualities

Of course, not every teacher provides the same value. In the studies examined above, only teachers deemed “high-performing” made improvements to their students’ academic success. Thus, it is imperative to understand which qualities we should encourage in educators so that future generations receive the best opportunities to learn and succeed.

Training and experience are some of the best indicators for effective teachers. Formal preparation at a college or university – including, ideally, a master’s program in some form of education – as well as certification in their chosen fields are mandatory in most regions, but studies have found that three years of classroom experience seems to be necessary for a teacher to learn from basic mistakes and form a winning teaching strategy. However, it is the performance teachers display during and after these three years on the job that matters more than their education and certification.

Usually, highly successful teachers do the following:

  • Set high standards for themselves and their students, regardless of academic history
  • Manage classroom time well, to increase periods of instruction, preparation, and reflection
  • Vary strategies, assignments, and activities to address diverse learning styles
  • Monitor goals with pre- and post-assessments, including examinations and feedback
  • Be caring, respectful, and fair to students and parents

More and more school districts are beginning to value good teachers over educated teachers, and many already have regulations in place to encourage effective classroom behaviors like those above. Unfortunately, not all teacher assessments realistically measure teachers’ ability to produce high-achieving students. Erratic observations tend to be artificial and provide only a narrow view into individual teachers’ classrooms. Meanwhile, testing teachers by testing their students is also a dangerous game. Not only does it encourage teachers to focus only on tested topics, but it discounts the impact of other factors on student achievement, including friends, parents, and the students themselves.

Teachers are necessary parts of the education system for the foreseeable future, but merely employing any education school graduate isn’t enough. Schools need good teachers – students need good teachers – and to confidently employ good teachers, schools need a way to separate the effective from the ineffective as well as a way to reward good teachers for their outstanding work.

The U.S. Department of Education Should Think Before It Tweets

This week the U.S. Department of Education gave us an excellent example of what NOT to tweet out to the many college students who will be hoping for student aid this school year. It also showed it’s about as good at social media as the average “cool” parent.

bad tweet (600x360)

In what can only be described as an attempt to be hip gone awry, Federal Student Aid, @FAFSA, tweeted to its followers a still from the movie “Bridesmaids” accompanied with the quote, “Help me. I’m poor.” While a funny quote that I’ve often used myself when feeling particularly broke, it’s probably not appropriate when coming from the Education Department. Especially when sent out with the caption, “If this is you, then you better fill out your FAFSA:”

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Federal Minimum Wage Increase is Good News for Students

If President Obama‘s plan to raise minimum wage goes through, plenty of people will benefit. One group in particular may see a direct benefit, but they probably aren’t the first group of people thought of during minimum wage discussions.

work study

College students who are part of the Federal Work-Study Program, which helps them pay for their education, would be directly impacted by an increase in minimum wage. The program itself could also see some changes as award packages would have to be altered to allow for what essentially amounts to multiple students receiving raises at once.

Students participating in a Work-Study program are required to be paid at least federal minimum wage. Currently, that means making at least $7.25 per hour. If the raise in minimum wage goes through, their pay would increase to at least $10.10 an hour. Some Work-Study participants already make more than that depending on their individual circumstances.

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Cancer Support Organizations Provide Scholarship Opportunities for Those In Need

Cancer is scary. It’s scary to think about, and even worse to experience. It also takes incredible strength to fight cancer or support someone you love who is. Two organizations are doing their best to provide hope and comfort to those individuals who have experienced or are currently experiencing the difficulties of cancer.

The Mesothelioma Group and the American Childhood Cancer Society are two of many organizations who hope that by providing support and information to families facing cancer, they can also offer some level of stability and normality to their lives. One way both organizations are doing this is by providing scholarship opportunities for families in need.

Paying for college is a hard enough prospect to face, even without the additional hardship of supporting a family member through cancer treatments or experiencing the illness yourself. By providing scholarship opportunities, these organizations make the possibility of college a little more of a reality. Each organization offers something a little different, so it’s just a matter of finding which opportunity works best for the individual.

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InstaEDU Connects Skilled College Tutors with Struggling Students

Every student experiences some academic stress in college. Whether it be proofs in Calculus or memorizing key dates in Western Civ, schoolwork has a way of stressing students out and can turn the sharpest of brains into gelatin. Once you compound all of that homework with a job, extracurricular activities, and a social life, you are at risk of jeopardizing your good academic standing.


InstaEDU is an invaluable tutoring resource for struggling college students. While most universities have various tutoring programs, keeping track of the available office hours and hiking up to campus can be a headache. InstaEDU offers you reliable online tutoring built to fit your busy life. With just a computer and an Internet connection, InstaEDU will connect you with current students and graduates of institutions like Harvard, MIT, and Stanford. Prospective pupils have the opportunity to chat online with different tutors so they can find the right fit. Read the rest of this entry »

“Hacking Your Education” Smartly Challenges the Benefits of a College Degree

“You wasted $150,000 on an education for $1.50 in late fees at the public library?”

In Dale J. Stephens’ book Hacking your Education, he makes a case for an alternative post-high school route. The book is his love letter to other free thinking people who have ever questioned their college education. It begins with a disclaimer: This is not a book about dropping out but rather about becoming empowered to make your own decisions. For a college dropout who bucked educational convention, he sure did his homework.

Stephens, a 20 year old wunderkind, has taken the time to productively analyze the quandaries frustrated college students have, but are too lazy to take to task.

The author has taken the principles of the unschooling movement, a philosophy started in the 1970s that encourages learning through real life experiences, and ushered them into the Internet and social media age. He has oodles of thorough advice on how to connect with like minded individuals in an attempt to foster your passions. Stephens accurately points out the loads of free, open to the public presentations on a wide variety of topics at university campuses everywhere. “Hacking Your Education” is all about identifying resources and sapping them dry. Read the rest of this entry »

Give Back to Teachers at CharitySub in February

Teachers don’t always get the appreciation that they deserve, but this month you can help change that. During February,’s charity focus is on teachers and educators, and for just $5 you can help make a difference. The five dollars you donate will go to one of three Empowered Education programs that the community giving organization is focused on.

Each month, the members of donate just $5 to help a different cause, which changes monthly and has included service animals, veterans, sustainable fishing, arts education, and childhood obesity. Three organizations for each cause are featured in a brief video, and members select which organization will receive their $5.

This month, your $5 will help one of the three Empowered Education programs. Take a look here and then learn more at Read the rest of this entry »

Employment Rates and Average Salaries Down for New College Grads

A trend that many have suspected to be on the rise – including college graduates – has been confirmed in a recent survey regarding employment rates among young people. An online survey from conducted between July 2011 and July 2012, showed that 63 percent of young people between the ages of 18 and 29 have a bachelor’s degree, however, are often forced to take jobs that don’t require one.

The survey included input from nearly 500,000 young workers, and only further suggested that a four-year college degree doesn’t mean as much as it used to when it comes to securing a job.

As reported by MarketWatch, a similar survey conducted by Rutgers University saw similar conclusions. They found that nearly half of young people who have graduated in the last five years say their jobs don’t require a four-year degree, and only 20 percent said their first job was actually in their desired career field.

Cliff Zukin, a professor of political science and public policy at Rutgers, told MarketWatch that these findings paint a grim picture of employment for recent college grads, saying, “Our society’s most talented people are unable to find a job that gives them a decent income.” Read the rest of this entry »

Forbes Announces Top Colleges: Does Your Pick Make the List?

I still remember being a restless high school senior waiting to cut my ties and finally make it to college. My sister had chosen a community college for her freshman-sophomore experience just three years before me, and since I followed in her footsteps in most areas I naturally considered taking the same route.

So on a hot day in mid-May back in 2004, my mom and I made the journey just one hour south of Wichita, Kansas, to check out the college that would soon be my new home. While my stay there was short – just two years until I could snag my associates degree – it was memorable. And the following two years spent at Wichita State University securing my bachelor’s degree were even more enjoyable than the first.

When I was looking for schools, my top priorities were proximity, price and degree offerings, among other minor considerations. Out-of-state universities weren’t an option for me as tuition would’ve been outrageous. And along the consideration of price, I also wanted a school that could offer me a scholarship.

Earlier this month, Forbes announced its list of top 650 colleges in America. Among its highest-ranking universities were Princeton, Williams College and Stanford, with Johnson & Wales and Texas Southern University snagging the last spots in 649th and 650th place.

While some have criticized the methods Forbes and other news sources, including US News and Newsweek, use to determine their respective rankings, there’s really no one, tried and true way to determine which colleges are superior. Because the truth is, everyone has their own opinion about what makes one college better than another. Read the rest of this entry »

Curiosity in the Classroom Designed to Get Students and Teachers Excited about Science and Math

If you ask a student if he or she were interested in math and science, statistics say they would more than likely give a resounding no over a yes. However, if you ask them if they are curious, they might be more apt to give a positive answer. A new site,, capitalizes on this spirit of inquiry that children have by providing engaging learning materials for them, their parents, and their teachers.

Curiosity in the Classroom, a venture between Discovery Education and Intel Corporation, encourages students in grades 6-12 to ask questions and find ways to answer them.

Does our brain store all the memories we’ve ever had?

How many texts does an average teen send per month?

Are robots “intelligent”?

The answers may surprise you, and this website answers all of these questions and more.

This interest in scientific findings is more than just a way for kids to pass the time, it may be essential to their later success in finding employment, a career, and the good of the country as a whole. Resources on the website for teachers include troubling research about students’ perceptions of their science, technology, engineering, and mathematics skills, which are fields in which the demand is increasing, the unemployment rates are low, and the pay is great. Read the rest of this entry »


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