The Best Places To Learn What Impact A Teacher & Outside Factors Have On Student Achievement

It’s not uncommon to hear someone inaccurately state that the teacher has the biggest influence on student achievement — period. Of course, the true statement is that — of the in-school factors — teachers have the biggest influence. On top of that, research has shown that over two-thirds of the factors that influence student achievement occur out of school.
That’s not to say that we shouldn’t continually look at ways to help teachers become better. It does mean that we should also figure out ways to change the outside factors, too — lack of affordable housing, health care, safety. That is one of the main messages of my book, Building Parent Engagement In Schools, which offers practical suggestions on how schools can work with parents on these issues. It also means that placing all the blame on teachers, which some “school reformers” are prone to do, is disingenuous.
In addition to my book, I thought I’d bring together links to other resources that provide research (and analyze it) about this topic. Feel free to offer additional suggestions.
Here are my choices for The Best Places To Learn What Impact A Teacher (& Outside Factors) Have On Student Achievement:
How To Fix Our Schools by Richard Rothstein
Teachers Matter, But So Do Words from the Shanker blog (thanks to Alexander Russo for the tip)
The Family: America’s Smallest School from The Educational Testing Service
I’m embedding this very good thirty minute Here’s how the Education Testing Service describes it:
Rothstein, a former New York Times national education columnist, discusses the false narrative about public education — especially urban schools — that currently exists. Rothstein maintains that many education reform proposals, especially those that focus on teacher accountability, are based on a misinterpretation and misuse of data. He stresses the direct correlation between poverty and educational failure.
Rothstein makes many important points but, because of some of the key ones he makes, I’m adding the video to this list.

Joe Nocera at The New York Times takes on school reformers in a column:
…school reform won’t fix everything. Though some poor students will succeed, others will fail. Demonizing teachers for the failures of poor students, and pretending that reforming the schools is all that is needed, as the reformers tend to do, is both misguided and counterproductive.
Over the long term, fixing our schools is going to involve a lot more than, well, just fixing our schools. In the short term, however, the reform movement could use something else: a dose of humility about what it can accomplish — and what it can’t.
Is Poverty the Key Factor in Student Outcomes? is from The Texas Observer.
Says Who? Lots of Folks, Actually… is by Robert Pondiscio. He’s gathered quite a few quotes from school reformers on the topic of the role of poverty and the role of teachers. I’m adding it to The Best Places To Learn What Impact A Teacher & Outside Factors Have On Student Achievement. He also raises some questions about a post written by Nancy Flanagan. You can find her response in the comments section there and in
Is Poverty the Key Factor in Student Outcomes? is an article and video from The Texas Tribune.
Closing the Poverty Gap: The Way Forward for Education Reform is the title of guest column in Ed Week by Massachusetts Secretary of Education Paul Reville.
After citing some pretty irrefutable data documenting the role of poverty in student achievement, here are some excerpts from what he writes:
Some want to make the absurd argument that the reason low-income youngsters do poorly is that, mysteriously, all the incompetency in our education systems has coincidentally aggregated around low income students. In this view, all we need to do is scrub the system of incompetency and all will be well. An equally absurd variant on this theme is that poor performance in low-income districts is a function of, again coincidental, misalignment between state standards and local curriculum. Get these in line and all will be fine say the ideologues. Others want to banish any discussion of socio-economic status (SES) and educational performance for fear that it suggests that SES is destiny. It does not. We all know of notable individual exceptions to this rule, but they are exceptions. The averages tell the story….
It is now blatantly apparent to me and other education activists, ranging form Geoffrey Canada to Richard Rothstein to Linda Darling-Hammond, that the strategy of instructional improvement will not, on average, enable us to overcome the barriers to student learning posed by the conditions of poverty.
As others have argued, we need “a broader, bolder” approach, one that meets every child where he or she is and gives to each one the quality and quantity of support and instruction needed to attain the standards. Those of us who have the privileges of affluence know how to do this at scale with our children. We wrap services and supports around these children from the pre-natal period through their twenties. We know how to do it, but do we have the will to do it for “other people’s children”? And do we know how to institutionalize the necessary services and supports that are best provided through families? Sign up for FREEUpdates.