February 7, 2006
Across the nation, parents, educators, community leaders, and policymakers are increasingly turning their attention to teacher quality and its impact on student achievement. Parents and educators have long known that having a quality teacher in the classroom is a crucial component to improving children's learning. Research shows that a quality teacher is one of the most powerful and consistent predictors of student achievement.1 Nationwide, the strongest positive predictor of student achievement is the percentage of teachers with full certification and a major in the subjects they teach.2 Researchers in New York found that differences in teacher qualifications accounted for more than 90% of the variation in student achievement in reading and math,3 and researchers in Texas found that teacher expertise accounted for 40% of the variation in student achievement in reading and math.4Over the past year, the Ed Fund's Public Engagement Initiative talked with key stakeholders in San Francisco, including students, educators, parents, and policymakers, to determine how our community defines quality teaching for our public schools. Using focus groups, surveys, and small community conversations, we asked participants to imagine great teachers and then consider the characteristics that make those teachers great. What we found was that quality teaching in San Francisco can be viewed as an equation5 that combines teacher characteristics with the teaching and learning environment.