The essential question of education policy is neither complex nor vague. In fact, it is quite simple: What works?
"With education reform at the forefront of recent political debate, a wide array of programs aimed at increasing student performance have been proposed and adopted," write editors Lance T. Izumi and Hoover fellow Williamson Evers in Teacher Quality (Hoover Institution Press, 2002). "From reducing class size to changing curricula to increasing funding, lawmakers and education officials have been trying to find, often in vain, the silver bullet that will raise test scores and student learning."
This collection of research by the Hoover Institution and the Pacific Research Institute should do much to help schools—and parents—answer this question.
"What the research does show is that the quality of classroom teachers has the greatest impact on the performance levels of students," the editors write. "High-quality teachers using proven teaching methodologies produce high-achieving students."
The contributors, some of the brightest minds in education research, have studied the most pressing questions about teacher quality and practices. They have reviewed thousands of education studies, closely examined state test scores, and explored education theories of the past thirty years in order to assess where we are—and where we ought to be.
They identify various problems in areas of teacher quality and what must be done comprehensively to improve teachers' approaches and strategies. In many cases, the authors' findings confirm common sense: nothing is as important to learning as the quality of a student's teacher. On the other hand, conventional wisdom holds, for example, that teacher training and certification lead to improved student test scores, but the authors find this belief to be mistaken.
Overall, the papers provide the reader with a portrait of a good teacher and good teaching methods and encourage districts to set high standards for teachers, to develop strong accountability systems for measuring performance, and to reward those who perform and frown on those who do not.
The contributors affirm that we know what works. It is time to turn our attention to forming policies that reflect what we know to ensure that the system provides the best possible education for kids.
About the Authors
Williamson M. Evers is a research fellow at the Hoover Institution and a member of the institution's Koret Task Force on K–12 Education. He was an education adviser to George W. Bush during the 2000 campaign.
Lance T. Izumi is a senior fellow in California Studies and director of the Center for School Reform at the Pacific Research Institute for Public Policy. He was an education adviser to George W. Bush during the 2000 campaign.
Contributors: William J. Bennett, Eugene W. Hickok, Izumi, June C. Rivers, William L. Sanders, J. E. Stone, and Koret Task Force members and Hoover fellows Evers, Eric A. Hanushek, and Herbert J. Walberg
The Hoover Institution, founded at Stanford University in 1919 by Herbert Hoover, who went on to become the 31st president of the United States, is an interdisciplinary research center for advanced study on domestic public policy and international affairs, with an internationally renowned archive.