Teachers matter in twin study

Teachers made a difference in a study of identical and fraternal twins, reports Reuters.  The Florida State study, published in Science, looked at the reading skills of more than 800 pairs of twins in first- and second-grade classrooms in Florida.

When twins were assigned to different teachers, their outcomes differed depending on the teacher’s skills:

If one identical twin excelled with a good teacher, the other did too. But if one twin had a strong teacher and the other twin had a weak teacher, twins with strong genetic potential did just so-so in the poor teacher’s class.

Researchers used the Oral Reading Fluency test to determine how much progress children made in reading from the beginning to the end of the year.

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  1. Jeanette Taylor’s an association prof in the psychology department and her study’s published in Science so it probably has scientific merit. Maybe Stanford’s school of education should touch base with her for tips on how to run a school.

  2. I’d be interested in the criteria for “strong” teacher and “weak” teacher. If the “strong” one is defined (as the linked article seems to imply) as someone whose students did well on a single reading test, then perhaps it isn’t surprising that one of those students did better on a test.

    At least this seems to be comparing teachers within the same building, using twins. That’ll help control for income and such. I’m not as convinced that a single measure of just one skill is a particularly good way to differentiate, however, though my expertise is certainly not at the k-3 level. If one teacher is better at science or math while the first is only good at teaching the reading skills needed for that one test, the differences could be enough to label one or the other as “deficient” and that’s not a good way to do this.

    I’d also like to know how the kids were placed in the various classes. If it’s random, then this study has more credibility, but if the placements are done for reasons of ability or behavior, then that test is measuring too many variables to definitively say one teacher is better than the other.

  3. SuperSub says:

    In other news –
    Man dies after jumping off of 10-story building.
    Rainfall makes the streets wet.
    Sun rises.

    Not poking fun at Joanne, but instead that someone seemed to doubt that teacher quality has an effect on education.


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