As schools struggle to raise student achievement while walking a budget tightrope, Dr. Harry Wong and his wife, Rosemary, remind us that the effectiveness of the teacher is the single most important variable in determining student achievement. A district does not need Race to the Top funds to develop effective teachers and principals, either. As the Wongs discuss in this interview, ” … effective teaching is identifiable, teachable, and implementable. The more effective the teacher, the greater the student gains. The more effective the principal, the greater the achievement levels at the school.” The following is an abridged version of our interview with the Wongs.
Q: You recently wrote, “The Race to the Top initiative, although well-intended, is misnamed. Education is not a race. A race implies that someone is a winner and the rest are losers. Effective school districts are ones where all teachers are winners. They train and nurture every teacher to reach great heights. Children deserve nothing less.” For over thirty years, both of you have lectured with missionary zeal that the single most important factor in raising the academic achievement of a student is the effectiveness of that student’s teacher. And you believe every teacher can be a winner if given effective training. So, let’s begin with your introduction to developing and retaining effective teachers.
Harry Wong: Rosemary, and I would like to thank you for asking us to share our latest report on “Developing and Retaining Effective Teachers and Principals.” This report was written because the two of us noticed the reluctance of educators to focus on THE one factor that will improve student learning: teacher and principal effectiveness. One, the single greatest effect on student achievement is the effectiveness of the teacher. And two, the single largest factor in improving the educational output of a school is the effectiveness of the principal. Instead, education has spent the past 75 years jumping from one program, initiative, philosophy, and ideology to another. Now, we, in education, are in the people business, yet we keep recycling and spending billions on the same programs, ideologies, or structural changes that have never increased student achievement on a large scale. Yet, more can be done to improve education by improving the effectiveness of teachers and principals than with any other single factor. And at greatly reduced cost.