Teachers Impact How Fast a Child Learns to Read

A new study in the journal Science finds that the teacher quality has a big impact on how fast children in first and second grades learn to read. Researchers at Florida State University compared twins who were in classes with different teachers to isolate this environmental effect.

Previous research has shown that genetics play an outsized role in how quickly a young child picks up reading. In its study, the FSU team found significant reading ability differences in 42 of the 280 pairs of identical twins (who share genetic material). In all 42 of those pairs, assessments of the twins' teachers showed that they were of different qualities. The good teachers were capable of maximizing a kid's genetic reading potential, whereas bad teachers merely stymied it.

Teacher quality was measured by looking at reading test scores of an entire class before and after the school year and determining if the class had outperformed or underperformed expectations. The study's lead author, Jeanette Taylor, told The Washington Post that the teachers were not solely responsible for the disparity in reading abilities. Other factors within the classroom, including the behavior of other children, could also play a role.

Photo (cc) via Flickr user usag.yongsan.