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Press release | Research

Teaching Quality’s Missing Link

June 17, 2019

Princeton, N.J. (June 17, 2019) – When it comes to their child’s performance, parents have a rich trove of information, including grades on homework assignments, report card results, statewide standardized testing, and much more. But something vital is missing — the quality of teaching in the classroom.

Drawing on the model used widely in the health care field, the authors of Quest for Quality: An Indicator System for Teaching propose developing a set of indicators of teaching quality to address this crucial missing link.

“We undertook this research because when it comes to improving student learning outcomes, what matters most is the quality of teaching,” said Gary Sykes, a principal research scientist in ETS’s Student & Teacher Research Group. “Indicators have been used with great effectiveness in fields such as medicine and economics. We must know more about the quality of what’s going on inside the classroom so that policies can better support high-quality teaching.”

An indicator is a statistic or combination of statistics designed to gauge progress toward some important end or outcome. Indicators differ from other statistics in that they serve as the object of policymaking and can provide some valued direction. They frequently are used to monitor progress over time at a state or national level.

This report marks the launch of the Equity in Education Series, which will provide a multifaceted exploration of prospects for developing indicators of teaching quality. Equity is a major part of this portrait of teaching. There is robust data showing large inequalities in access to good teachers across America, especially for poor and historically marginalized students in our schools. Now we need comparable measures of teaching.

Irwin Kirsch, Director of the ETS Center for Research on Human Capital & Education, said that as we progress into the 21st century, skills are becoming more important than ever before. To improve the types and level of skills that are needed, we must also improve teaching, he said.

“This is a conversation that is long overdue,” Kirsch said. “Coming to an agreement on what types of measures will capture the teaching practices that improve student outcomes will be difficult. If, however, we can find a set of measures to give information to policymakers on the quality of instruction, we can do a better job of developing policies that support the improvement of teaching for students of all backgrounds.”

Quest for Quality: An Indicator System for Teaching was written for ETS’s Center for Research on Human Capital & Education. To download or read the complete report, please visit: http://www.ets.org/research/report/opportunity.

Irwin Kirsch, Director of the ETS Center for Research on Human Capital & Education, weighs in on teaching quality’s missing link.


Gary Sykes, a principal research scientist in ETS’s Student & Teacher Research Group, explains why we need indicators for teaching quality.


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