•   Getting the right people to become teachers (the quality of an education system cannot exceed the quality of its teachers);

•   Developing them into effective instructors (the only way to improve outcomes is to improve instruction); and

•   Ensuring that the system is able to provide the best possible instruction for every child (high performance requires every child to succeed).

The McKinsey report concludes: “The available evidence suggests that the main driver of the variation in student learning at school is the quality of the teachers.” Three illustrations are provided to support this conclusion:

•   Ten years ago, seminal research based on data from the Tennessee Comprehensive Assessment Program tests showed that if two average 8-year-old students were given different teachers—one of them a high performer, the other a low performer—the students’ performance diverged by more than 50 percentile points within 3 years.28

•   A study from Dallas showed that the performance gap between students assigned three effective teachers in a row and those assigned three ineffective teachers in a row was 49 percentile points.29

•   In Boston, students placed with top-performing math teachers made substantial gains, while students placed with the worst teachers regressed—their math actually got worse.

The McKinsey report further concluded as follows:

Studies that take into account all of the available evidence on teacher effectiveness suggest that students placed with high-performing teachers will progress three times as fast as those placed with low-performing teachers.

The second McKinsey report (2010) addresses the teacher talent gap by examining the details of teacher preparation and performance in three top-performing countries: Singapore, Finland, and South Korea.30 These


28 W. Sanders and J. Rivers, 1996, Cumulative and Residual Effects of Teachers on Future Student Academic Achievement. University of Tennessee, Value-Added Research and Assessment Center, Knoxville, Tenn.

29 Heather R. Jordan, Robert L. Mendro, and Dash Weerasinghe, 1997, “Teacher Effects on Longitudinal Student Achievement: A Report on Research in Progress,” Presented at the CREATE Annual Meeting Indianapolis, Ind. Available at http://dallasisd.schoolwires.net/cms/lib/TX01001475/Centricity/Shared/evalacct/research/articles/Jordan-Teacher-Effects-on-Longitudinal-Student-Achievement-1997.pdf.

30 Byron Auguste, Paul Kihn, and Matt Miller, 2010, “Closing the talent gap: Attracting and retaining top-third graduates to careers in teaching.” McKinsey & Company, September.

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